Project Abstract

To develop a community engagement course that showcases context dependent learning of biological concepts involving principles of nutrition on human health. Topics include physiological requirements and functions of protein, energy, and the major vitamins and minerals that are determinants of health and diseases in human populations. These basic concepts will then be applied to current issues faced in society, including the role of diet in malnutrition, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. We will explore these topics within communities in Grundy and Franklin counties. Students will learn through direct engagement with patients in medical clinics, visiting speakers from Erlanger, UTC, community health educators, and practicing dietitians, as well as directed discussions concerning literature reviews about best practices in preventive healthcare, particularly for cardiovascular health and diabetes management in the region.

Topics include physiological requirements and functions of protein, energy, and the major vitamins and minerals that are determinants of health and diseases in human populations. These basic concepts will then be applied to current issues faced in society, including the role of diet in malnutrition, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. We will explore these topics within communities in Grundy and Franklin counties. Students will learn through direct engagement with patients in medical clinics, visiting speakers from Erlanger, UTC, community health educators, and practicing dietitians, as well as directed discussions concerning literature reviews about best practices in preventive healthcare, particularly for cardiovascular health and diabetes management in the region.

This project will create a new course at Sewanee in the Biology Department that will serve a wide range of students interested in public and global health, health policy, and nursing, to name a few. One of the main goals of creating this course is to provide opportunities for students to put into practice what they are learning and be exposed to the complications of implementing health practices in diverse communities that have unique values, cultures, societal and place-based constraints, such as “food-deserts” that create problems with food access.

Project Alignment with the Collaborative for Southern Appalachian Studies

This proposal seeks to merge the learning of nutritional concepts to understanding more about practical applications in healthcare. We will be learning about the health needs in communities on the Cumberland Plateau and surrounding areas to showcase importance of understanding the place and the people when implementing health policy and practice. This proposal aligns with the Collaborative’s objectives both in the studies of the Appalachian region and the importance of studying place. We will also engage with community partners to expand learning objects through invited speakers.

Project Impact

The goals of this project are to 1) create an introductory course that focuses on core principles of human nutrition and 2) establish and maintain connections to community partners that lead to educational and productive health benefits for students and community members.

This course will impact students greatly as previously students who needed to take a nutrition course had to go elsewhere. Recent registration has shown a need and desire for this course in the curriculum as it currently has a 20-student waitlist. The community engagement aspect of the course will impact students by expanding their perspective about local region and its peoples and the impact that knowledge has on healthcare practice. In addition to student impact, this course is poised to be a powerful supporter or current programs whose objectives are to serve the local population in service and education roles about healthy life choices that impact disease treatment (e.g. diabetes) and preventive medicine (e.g. cardiovascular health). These programs have already been shown to have tangible health benefit outcomes (e.g. Reverse Diabetes Program, modeled by diabetes educators) that we will be able to help sustain through this course.

Final Report