CHW affiliate Heather Howard, lecturer for the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA) and director of the State Health and Value Strategies program, has taught the undergraduate SPIA Policy Task Force on “Health Care for Vulnerable Populations in the U.S.” since 2018. The course, which fulfills a SPIA requirement, empowers juniors to explore inequities within our health care system and propose policy solutions for the State of New Jersey. Last fall, as the nation confronted an escalating pandemic and the effects of structural racism, Howard recognized a unique opportunity to modify the class and study the unprecedented confluence of events in real time.
“We had two pandemics converging: COVID-19 and the reckoning with racial injustice,” stated Howard. “Students were hungry to bring these issues into the classroom. I thought it would be a shame not to seize the moment.” Thanks to a grant from Princeton’s 250th Anniversary Fund for Innovation in Undergraduate Education, she was able to do just that.
The funding allowed Howard to redesign the course curriculum to examine the intertwining dynamics of COVID-19 and systemic racism, shifting the focus from state health policy generally to policy addressing health disparities exacerbated by the pandemic. In fact, she kicked off the class by posing the following question: Is COVID-19 an equalizer or magnifier? In other words, does the pandemic affect everyone in the same way, or does it expose and amplify inequities?
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