The University Insider is The Daily’s first faculty and staff-oriented newsletter. This weekly newsletter will give U-M faculty and staff the ability to see the most important issues on campus and in Ann Arbor — particularly those related to administrative decisions — from the perspective of an independent news organization. It will also provide a better understanding of student perspectives.
The University of Michigan School of Public Health released a new podcast titled “Population Healthy” to spread their work to the general public. Public Health doctoral student Nina Masters said public health work tends to only spread inside a small echo chamber, so the podcast acts as a medium for sharing knowledge.
“I think that these kinds of ideas have to be incorporated into STEM fields, especially public health, because the nature of it is so much about impacting the public and changing behavior and raising awareness,” she said. “It’s kind of weird that it’s not a mandatory part of the program, or at least something that people are trying to do. I just, kind of, hope that this can be part of initiatives by the School of Public Health and other schools to try to just increase students’ ability to find other ways to articulate their ideas.”
In the first season — which will run weekly through the end of August — will cover a range of topics from the opioid epidemic and gun safety, to aging and childhood nutrition. Each 20 to 30-minute episode will feature three or four professionals who will showcase their different perspectives and expertise.
With over 1,200 students, 530 faculty and staff and 16,000 alumni, the School of Public Health studies topics ranging from epidemiology and health management, to biostatistics and environmental health sciences.
With the popularity of podcasts beginning to rise, DuBois Bowman, dean of the School of Public Health, emphasized the importance of experimenting with new kinds of mediums outside the traditional scientific journal in order to reach a broader audience in an email to The Daily.
“As a field, public health is constantly revealing deeper understandings about health and wellness,” Bowman wrote. “To truly impact and empower the populations we serve, we have to explore innovative ways to engage communities and to effectively translate knowledge to our partners and the public … Population Healthy, is just one part of an effort that will help the School of Public Health ensure that knowledge reaches those it impacts the most, and gives them a voice in shaping the health of future generations.”
Five experts, including Masters, were featured in the first episode of the series. Professor of pediatrics Gary Freed and Director of computing T. Charles Yun also joined the panel to break down the ongoing conversation about the efficiency of vaccines.
Yun said the release of the podcast is crucial. Because the University holds a vast amount of authority, he said it is their duty to spread information which may be under threat or question.
“The University of Michigan has a position of power, and a position of prestige and respect, and anything that comes from an official creation of the University — in this case, in the subset of the podcast — can really provide weight, authority and sort of acknowledgement this is a true, correct and believable and knowledgeable source of information,” Yun said.
In 2018, Masters created a blog, in an attempt to cut through the seeming inaccessibility of scientific research and writing. In her opinion, new ways of disseminating information should be a core part STEM field studies, whether it be in the form of a blog, podcast or anything else more communicable.
Public Health senior Aubree McMahon agreed with Masters about the importance of having public health information discussed in ways beside the traditional formats.
“It is so exciting to hear public health topics being discussed outside the classroom,” Masters said. “When public health is being done well, it is so often invisible and then results in disinvestment because the public doesn’t think we are doing anything. As a public health major, it is validating to hear my future profession is still alive and well and doing things and, most importantly, educating.”
For McMahon, public health work surrounding the immediate community is vital to the core of the field. Overall, she hopes listeners simply learn something about a field which aims to protect their lives.
“There is something for everyone in these podcasts,” McMahon said. “It gives basic information to those who might not have it and opens up new perspectives for experts … I hope, and predict, that more people will come to understand public health as something concrete, important and expansive and be willing to use the lessons in the podcast as they move through their lives and navigate their health.”