Medical Student Service Learning Improves Community Health Literacy
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Objective: To assess the impact of a medical student service learning initiative on community knowledge of hypertension. Background: Medical education has recently placed a greater emphasis on service learning. Studies have shown that service learning positively impacts students’ education and perception of the value of community engagement. While these studies have demonstrated positive student outcomes, there is a paucity of literature focusing on the health outcomes of the communities that these programs aim to influence. Reciprocal knowledge transfer is critical to achieve accountability to the communities where the service learning is taking place. Methods: A seven-person medical student team designed and implemented a project to assess community knowledge of hypertension at a neighborhood health clinic. Baseline knowledge of hypertension was assessed via a pre-test to 42 voluntary participants. Two post-tests separated by one month were used to evaluate short- and long-term retention after an informational pamphlet on hypertension was provided. Results: A statistically significant difference (p-value < 0.05) was observed between mean total scores of pre-test and both post-tests. Statistically significant differences in mean question scores between pre-test and both post-tests were also discovered. Finally, percent changes of total scores from pre-test to post-test 1 were positive for all but three participants. From post-test 1 to post-test 2, percent changes were positive in all but two participants. Conclusions: In this study, knowledge of hypertension was used as a surrogate for health literacy. The results from this project show increased long-term knowledge of hypertension risk factors, complications, and management strategies. These results demonstrate that reciprocal transfer of knowledge is possible in a medical student service learning context. These results help to further the support service learning by demonstrating tangible community benefits in addition to the already known positive impact on medical student learning.
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