Health, Science, Engineering and Public Policy

TitleHealth, Science, Engineering and Public Policy
Faculty/College/UnitGraduate Studies
Duration2 Year
Project Summary

Rationale: It is well known that some of the largest gains in life expectancy in the last century were made by primary prevention of disease and injury using engineered solutions enabled or prescribed by progressive public policy decisions. Examples include potable water distribution, sanitary sewage systems, and improved conditions in workplaces. Despite this fact, there is often a disconnect between health personnel who study the basic mechanisms and risk factors for disease; engineers and scientists who design systems, processes, materials, machines, and structures; and policy makers who content with both scientific evidence and political realities.

Objectives: The primary objectives of the proposed project are to cultivate interchange between undergraduate health science, environmental science, engineering, and policy-oriented students, expose them to public health research ideas and methods, provide them with an understanding of historical successes and failures, and promote the application of this new combined knowledge base to the prevention of disease and injury associated with human activities.

Specific aims are:

  • to develop problem-centred and research focused modules for delivery to undergraduate students in a variety of formats, including seminar discussions, group project work, interactive computer-based learning, research activities, and multimodal systems;
  • to combine modules to create a new 3-credit undergraduate course, “Health, Science, Engineering and Public Policy,” directed at upper level students in the Environmental Sciences Program (or its potential successor, the interfaculty Program in Sustainability), the Integrated Engineering Program, the Integrated Sciences Program, the Health and Society minor in Arts, and programs served by the College of Health Disciplines;
  • to include modules within existing courses in the undergraduate engineering curriculum (APSC Technology and Society), and the environmental sciences curriculum (ENVH Environmental Studies I and II), and the undergraduate medical curriculum (DPAS Doctor/Dentist Patient and Society);
  • to involve undergraduate students from the above programs in module development and testing; and
  • to build course development and evaluation skills in graduate fellowship students of UBC’s Strategic Training Program Bridging Public Health, Engineering and Policy Research (a strategic training program funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, and based in nine units in the faculties of Medicine, Applied Science and Graduate Studies).

Methods: In the first two years of this TLEF grant (2004/05 and 2005/06), seven modules have been designed and tested by teams of Bridge Program doctoral and masters students under the supervision of faculty mentors. Each module provides about two weeks (six hours) of teaching material supplemented by readings/assignments delivered via WebCT. In the first year, four modules were completed. The three modules designed this year are outlined in the Progress report.

In the third year of the grant, we propose the design and testing of an additional four modules covering different topics. Module topics will be selected in consultation with students and faculty from the undergraduate programs listed above. The following is a list of topics proposed to date, selected in part from the research of Bridge graduate students:

  • Gold fever: mitigating the effects of artisanal mining on public and environmental health
  • Measuring health: death, disease, and quality of life
  • Lessons from history: 20th-century public health successes and failures
  • Transportation and injury: when masses collide
  • Emerging diseases: fighting SARS, West Nile, and Cryptococcus
  • Bugs, worms, and other treats: issues and solutions in food security

Determining the best modes of delivery will be part of the module development process. The modules will be designed so that instructors who did not develop the materials can deliver it easily. The Bridge faculty have considerable experience in the creation of "exportable" training materials such as these. Examples include the Institute for Resources and Environment's Integrated Watershed Management CD-ROM which has been sought and used around the world, and web-based modules on Evidence-based Medicine and Causation developed by the Department of Health Care and Epidemiology and used in the undergraduate medical curriculum and other courses.

John Gilbert, Principal of the College of Health Disciplines, is enthusiastic to offer the new course under the college's banner: IHHS (lnterprofessional Health and Human Service). This course designation allows students from most faculties to enrol and have the course counted towards their degree requirements. Michael Doebeli, Director of the Integrated Sciences Program in the Faculty of Science, is also interested in offering the course as one of the Integrated Sciences core courses (ISCI). This would mean that students in the Integrated Sciences Program can take the course for ISCI credit in partial fulfillment of their degree requirements.

Funding Details
Year 1: Project YearYear 1
Year 1: Funding Year2004/2005
Year 1: Project TypeSmall TLEF
Year 1: Principal InvestigatorKay Teschke
Year 1: Funded Amount32,500
Year 1: Team Members


Year 2: Project YearYear 2
Year 2: Funding Year2006/2007
Year 2: Project TypeSmall TLEF
Year 2: Principal InvestigatorKay Teschke
Year 2: Funded Amount31,500
Year 2: Team Members

Kay Teschke, Bridge Program, Faculty of Graduate Studies
John Gilbert, College of Health Disciplines
George Spiegelman, Environmental Sciences Program, Faculty of Science
Scott Dunbar, Integrated Engineering Program, Faculty of Applied Science
Mike Doebeli, Integrated Sciences Program, Faculty of Science
Mike Buzzelli, Health and Society Program, Faculty of Arts