Dickinson College Students Research Statewide Health Issue, Promote Inaugural Event

Students from Sherry Ritchey's class in storytelling and communication techniques worked at the April 4 Pennsylvania Latino Health Summit, the first dedicated Pennsylvania-wide gathering of health influencers committed to effecting positive change.

International business & management students in a class on storytelling and communication techniques helped promote the April 4 Pennsylvania Latino Health Summit and delivered surveys during the event to gather data around the issue of access to quality health care in the Latinx community.

First Pennsylvania Latino Health Summit boosted by Dickinson Collge student promotions, research

by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson

Hispanic-Americans are more likely to die from liver disease and diabetes, and are more likely to be uninsured, than any other ethnic group. Language barriers and cultural differences present additional roadblocks to medical care. What can health care providers do to help?

This month, students in Visiting Instructor in International Business & Management Sherry Ritchey’s Social Impact Through Communications and Storytelling class contributed to research on this vital issue. They also developed and executed a social media campaign to publicize the Pennsylvania Latino Health Summit, the first dedicated Pennsylvania-wide gathering of health influencers committed to working toward solutions.

Research and communication

Sponsored by the Pennsylvania Governors Commission on Latino Affairs, The Latino Connection and Aetna, the Pennsylvania Latino Health Summit was held April 4 in downtown Lancaster, Pennsylvania, a city with a substantial and growing Latino population.

In the months leading up to the summit, the students learned communications and storytelling; polished interview, audio and video techniques at the Media Center; boned up on existing research on the issue; and wrote two op-eds for publication on the Latino Connection’s social media venues. They then divided into three groups to help the organizers publicize the event and take a deep dive into Pennsylvania-specific related information.

One team wrote interviews, given to a Pennsylvania Spanish-speaking population by a Latino Connection interpreter, while another promoted the April 4 event using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and administered these efforts through HootSuite, recording the results. A third team wrote two survey instruments to gather related research.

On the day of the summit, students administered the surveys and let attendees know that they were available online. They also posted video, photography and text on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram throughout the event and worked the swag table.

An hour before the event’s close, the students created and posted a PowerPoint presentation highlighting survey findings thus far (the survey is still open online; students will share final results with the nonprofit). And in the days following, they wrote two additional surveys—measuring vendor and speaker satisfaction—and sent them to Latino Connection, as the organization begin to plan for next year’s summit.

“Seeing it all come together was inspiring and educative,” said Taylor-Ann Stroili ’18 (international business & management, Italian studies) who enjoyed learning how to use survey software and hopes to help nonprofits with media and outreach efforts in the future. “We heard inspiring stories, collected data and helped to advertise the summit and educate the public through our various assignments.”

A sense of place

The class is the second of two Dickinson classes to address the issue of obstacles to health care faced by the Latinx population (Spanish in the Health Professions, taught last fall, took students into the Adams County migrant-worker community to translate during medical-care sessions). Ritchey’s students also took on an additional community-based project, collaborating with the United Way of Cumberland County and the United Way of Carlisle to develop and conduct surveys and interviews, and videotaping United Way constituents’ stories for use in a promotional video publicizing the organization’s upcoming 100th-anniversary celebrations.

Other community-based research and service-learning courses taught this spring include:

Speaking during the April 4 Latino Summit, Ritchey said that learning experiences like these present prime opportunities for students to prepare for lives of civic engagement as they develop useful skills they can apply in the global marketplace and gain new insights into social problems they may previously have known little about.

“[At Dickinson College,] we stress the importance of service learning within this sense of place that students inhabit for the time they are here,” she said. “This learning gives them experience and knowledge to carry into the future to make a difference.”

"We couldn't have done any of it without you and your class," wrote Christiane Delgado, Latino Connection events coordinator, in an email to Ritchey. "In some small way, we are all making a difference to close the gaps and combat the barriers [to quality health care]."

Learn more about our professors' work toward the common good in "Academics in Action."

Learn more about civic engagement at Dickinson in "In Service."


Published April 16, 2018