CentreTerm 2015: Economics class partners with Ephraim McDowell to propose new health policies

Posted by Centre News in Academics, CentreTerm, Community-Based Learning, Economics, News 11 Feb 2015

Policy econ class PSExemplifying Centre College’s commitment to experiential learning, community-based learning initiatives continue to be integrated into more and more classes, including Assistant Professor of Economics Patten Mahler’s new CentreTerm course Policy Analysis in Our Community.

This January, the upper-level economics class partnered with Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center to research a variety of health policy issues affecting the local community. Over the course of the three-week term, the class calculated the body mass index of elementary school children, analyzed populations being served by the hospital’s health screenings and assessed Danville’s walkability with the health of its residents in mind.

In order to address the matter of expanding the connectivity of Danville’s walkways, the class teamed up with the Boyle County Trails Project Committee, a group dedicated to working toward a healthier, safer and more accessible local area.

“Students are thinking about the walking spaces that Danville already has and how it is possible to connect them in a larger system,” Mahler says. “The group in particular is interested in how to inform the public of these initiatives and weighing the cost and benefits of creating a more walkable community.”

The intense focus of this class during CentreTerm allowed students hands-on experience working with community leaders to better understand the issues and to recommend the best policy. Students were in direct contact with these leaders in order to gain the most accurate data, which in turned helped the class to function as a policy think-tank.

“These leaders are clients. We are researching their fields, and we want to create meaningful and relevant data so these initiatives could eventually be funded with grant money, if need be,” she says.

The direct involvement with the community provided the class with instruction in more than just policy. The students are learning important skills, such as how to interview clients as well as the importance of writing thank you notes.

“The community-based learning projects make what we are learning in the classroom more applicable and provide the students with experience in both academic and community involvement,” says Mahler.

Learn more about CentreTerm.

by Morgan King ’16

Photo: Students in Assistant Professor of Economics Patten Mahler’s Policy Analysis in Our Community course present policy recommendations to local health leaders.  

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