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Situation Analysis

General Description


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The goal of this assignment is for you to bring together what you have learned about thinking about a problem that affects health/well-being from a broader public health perspective.  You will be looking at the epidemiology/burden of the problem, describing the broader context (i.e., social determinants, built environment) in which the problem exists, discuss factors about the community that facilitate and inhibit change, and finally highlight gaps in the current knowledge/evidence regarding how to address the problem from a public health perspective.  We encourage you to draw from the experiences described by the various lecturers, and bring a true holistic public health perspective to this assignment.

Topics can be drawn from infectious diseases, non-communicable diseases, injury/violence, or other issues that affect the health of populations.   To limit the scope of your assignment, choose one “community” that is of interest to you.  You can look at a national (or even international) scale all the way down to a city/neighborhood level.


Assignment Details

This assignment is a modified version of a classic Public Health Situation Analysis.  Your paper should include the following sections:


  1. The problem, it’s burden, severity, and underlying causes

This section should be a brief review of existing data outlining the basic epidemiology of the chosen topic.  Discuss the issue, what populations are affected, what the implications are on people’s health and well-being, and how severe/wide-spread the problem is in your chosen population.

Example: For the chosen topic of decreasing youth tobacco use, you should discuss what types of tobacco (i.e., cigarettes, e-cigarettes, chewing tobacco, etc.) are commonly used by your target age range in your community, what the health sequelae are of tobacco exposure, and what is known about youth tobacco use prevalence in your area.


  1. Broad context in which the problem exists

Think about the broad factors that affect your public health problem.  Include community or place-based issues, environmental factors, and social determinants of health.  Discuss the various stakeholders that are important to engage in your efforts, including considering what governance sectors play a role in the regulation or control of your issue and groups that might “oppose” your public health/prevention efforts.

Example: For the chosen topic of decreasing youth tobacco use, a place-based issue could be prevalence of tobacco outlets near an individual’s residence or school, an environmental factor could be targeted media efforts, and social determinants could include socioeconomic status indicators that are associated with higher rates of tobacco use.  Stakeholders could include schools, parents, store vendors, media outlets, and the tobacco lobby.


Discuss 1-2 factors that facilitate and another 1-2 that inhibit change

Discuss individual as well as structural factors that would both help as well as hinder efforts in your public health prevention/control efforts.  Explain what each factor is and how it might affect your efforts.  These can be informed by what has been written about current programs/interventions that are being implemented, or even by past efforts that have been less successful.

Example: For the chosen topic of decreasing youth tobacco use, facilitating factors might include increased knowledge about the dangers of smoking and existing legislation limiting tobacco sales to minors.  Inhibiting factors could include how youth are less likely to respond to messages about long-term sequelae or efforts by the industry to market tobacco products specifically to youth.


Gaps in the knowledge

Putting together what you have heard from the various lecturers about different topics, think about what work still needs to be done from a public health perspective related to your topic.  For newer emerging health issues, this might include the need for greater knowledge in its epidemiology/burden or in potential interventions.  For a more developed issue, this section might focus more on neglected sub-populations or better evaluation of existing interventions.

Example: For the chosen topic of decreasing youth tobacco use, this might include the need for a better understanding of what types of public health messages resonate with certain subpopulations of youth, or more evidence regarding the scalability of school-based prevention programs.


Assignment Guidelines

Your paper should be no more than 2 pages single spaced using 11-point font.  References are expected (in any standard format of your choosing), but are not included in the page limit.


Grading Rubric

For satisfactory completion of this assignment, the following components will be assessed:

Description of the problem  Description of the broader context Descriptions of facilitating and inhibiting factors for change Gaps in current knowledge Overall writing quality, clarity, and flow.

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