Public Health Professionals in the Making: Upward Bound Introduces Local High School Students to Public Health

This summer, the annual  College of Public Health Upward Bound program introduced public health issues and problem solving to a new group of high school students. The public health section of Upward Bound introduces young people to public health as a discipline, exploring how public health issues impact the everyday lives of people in local communities.

Kent State College of Public Health Lecturer Peggy Shaffer-King spent five weeks with Northeast Ohio high school students, exploring the public health issues that impact the wellbeing of their communities.

“My favorite part of my job in working with these students is watching them learn and grow.” Comments Shaffer-King, ”They are quick to point out where we should or shouldn’t be stopping for lunch- but I like to add to their knowledge base by sharing with them how you can make healthy choices almost anywhere.”

This year, students from Windham, Lorain, and Ravenna, Ohio focused on one critical issue: health disparities.  Health disparities within the realm of heart disease will be the basis of their academic year work in order to develop community based projects.

Upward Bound students came from three distinct communities. Each community is underserved either in terms of access to medical services, infrastructure, health environment, or outreach. Due to socioeconomic variations, each community experiences a different set of heart disease related health disparities.

“Students from Windham, for instance, live in a town with only one grocery store.“  Shared Shaffer-King, “This grocery store has a limited selection of fresh produce, with only a few square feet dedicated to fruits and vegetables. The closest “real” grocery store is 15 minutes away, requiring access to personal transportation or a suitable public transportation route.”

Upward Bound participants learned that the situation in Windham is what is known as a “food desert,” leaving residents with limited access to a healthy variety of food options. In contrast, Lorain residents have many grocery stores to choose from.  Students attending the Upward Bound program learned that these inequalities have significant implications in terms of outcomes.

While some health disparities were unique to individual communities, other health disparities were consistent across all three. Obesity, for instance, was seen by students as a major problem in Windham, Lorain, and Ravenna. Students are learning about the factors that influence the rate of heart disease, as well as preventative strategies.

Each participating school will develop a plan to tackle the individual heart disease related health disparities within their community. Schools then will partner with Northeastern Ohio Medical University’s Health Professions Affinity Community (HPAC) grants, with the goal of plan implementation.

To learn more about the Upward Bound program, contact Peggy Shaffer-King at

(Photo: From left to right, Upward Bound students: Essence Hulsinger, Alexandra Raygor, JaiNekqua Davis, Elise Miller, Jenaya Dukes, Rachel Harris at Health Professions Affinity Community Scholars’ Day event)

POSTED: Thursday, September 24, 2015 - 3:37pm
UPDATED: Thursday, February 20, 2020 - 1:54pm