Public Health 113 is a course offered at UC Berkeley that focuses on developing and implementing community health promotion strategies.  This course is a great opportunity for Public Health students to apply what they have learned in their theoretical Public Health classes.  This course applies skills covered in Epidemiology, Community Health and Environmental Health courses.

What does this class entail?  For the Spring of 2012, Public Health 113 required students to create a community action project focused on the sexual health of the Berkeley community.  You can create projects using strategies such as behavior change, harm reduction and social norms amongst others.

For example, one student evaluated the sexual health of a premedical organization on campus.  The student found that around 36% of members of this organization do not use condoms consistently once in a monogamous relationship.  In response, the student developed a program to address this sexual health issue.

How to identify a problem?
This student used an anonymous online survey to assess the sexual health practices of the defined community.  The survey results indicated that consistent condom use was a problem within the community.

Why is consistent condom use important?

1. Mutual Monogamy is not an objective form of protection – you can never objectively guarantee that your partner is honoring the commitment.  There is still a risk of contracting an STI if there has been any infidelity.

2. STI Status may be unclear – many people are unaware of their STI status.  People may assure their partners that they are STI free while in actuality they are putting their partner at risk.  Why the confusion?  People may not have been tested.  People may had been tested but are confused about their results and what they were actually tested for.  For example, many women think that their annual pelvic exam includes a check for STIs when in actuality it does not.  Many people think that HIV screenings telling you if you are clear of all STIs.  Finally, some STIs go unnoticed (like recurring genital herpes) or undiagnosed due to long latency periods.

3. Unwanted pregnancy – there is always a risk of unwanted pregnancy even if a person is tang oral contraceptives.  They are not 100% effective and lose effectiveness if not taken correctly.

How to address the problem?
In this action project, the student used the model of behavior change to try to improve the sexual health practices of the community.  The student developed a comic strip displaying the issue of consistent condom use and distributed this comic during an information session about sexual health.

If you are interested in engaging in public health activism then sign up for Public Health 113.  The class offers students the opportunity to make a difference in their community and practice the skills taught by the Public Health courses at Cal.


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