Award-Winning MPH Course Combines Environmental Health Knowledge With Leadership, Communications Practice

September 15, 2020


Anna G. HooverDr. Anna Goodman Hoover, assistant professor of Preventive Medicine and Environmental Health in the University of Kentucky College of Public Health, is the winner of an internal competition on curriculum innovation held by the UK chapter of the Delta Omega honorary society in public health. 


The national Delta Omega society sponsors the annual Award for Innovative Public Health Curriculum as part of its mission to promote excellence in public health education, research, and practice.


The award highlights public health course curricula that are innovative and fulfill the following criteria:

  • Integrate actual public health practice experiences and examples into classroom discussions and exercises;
  • Highlight models of collaborative, comprehensive, and community-based public health practice and scholarship;
  • Emphasize the application of public health principles and science-based decision-making
  • Focus on skills development;
  • Involve community-sector partners in teaching; and
  • Use case studies and other examples of inter-disciplinary projects suitable for a multi-disciplinary audience.


Hoover’s winning entry focused on her course design for “CPH 621: Understanding and Communicating Environmental Health Risk”. A new course for the 2019-2020 academic year, CPH 621 is designed to fulfill the revised core competencies for the Master of Public Health Program by focusing on communication and leadership issues while also introducing graduate students to the fundamentals of environmental health practice.


Early in the course, each student selects a case contaminant on which to become the “class expert,” incorporating environmental health knowledge into a variety of communication products through the rest of the semester. The products address audiences ranging from journalists to lay publics to healthcare practitioners.


"In Dr. Hoover's course, students are asked to deliver a speech about an environmental health hazard, and 'identify any populations...known to be disproportionately exposed to and/or affected by [a] contaminant'.  Thus, CPH 621 also broaches the challenging issue of health disparities," said Dr. Richard Charnigo, professor of Biostatistics and president of the UK Delta Omega chapter. 


“I really enjoyed [CPH 621] because of the interactive nature of it,” said MPH student Narjis Fatima Hussain.

“Dr. Hoover would have a small session about the readings and everyone would contribute to it by sharing something new they learned. It was always interesting to see how people responded to it, and it helped reinforce a lot of concepts. There were also table/group activities and that allowed for a lot of discussions. That is what I liked most about this class. Our assignments were also very relevant to the study material and I learned a lot from other people sharing their knowledge” about their case contaminants.


When the Spring 2020 semester was disrupted by a move to remote instruction, Hoover helped her students pivot into a new learning modality by using technology to take course elements  like group discussion and poster displays into the virtual world.


“The assignments where we had to make a presentation and an infographic were also a learning experience, since it forced me to get out of my comfort zone and use technology that I was not familiar with,” said Hussain.


In addition to creating and deploying an innovative curriculum, Hoover earned high marks from her students for her accessibility and supportiveness while covering challenging materials during an unconventional semester.


“I place a lot of value in instructor accessibility and response to student feedback, which this class and Dr. Hoover have in spades,” said MPH student and Preventive Medicine chief resident Dr. Ankur Bhargava. “I think the way she structured the class in having us become subject matter experts on a chosen environmental hazard was very effective.”


Having received local honors, Hoover plans to submit her course as a contender for the Delta Omega Award for Innovative Public Health Curriculum national competition. The winner of the national award will be invited to present at both the annual meeting of the Delta Omega national council and the Academic Public Health Caucus poster session held the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting.