Professionals Must Understand Modern Realities Affecting Marginalized Populations

Most career fields do not exist in a bubble. As a skilled professional, it’s critical to stay aware of how current realities and future trends affect both your immediate work situation and your entire industry. Graduate and undergraduate programs tooled for those serving the public are beginning to shift their focus towards how their work affects marginalized populations, particularly those in underserved communities. Some of their goals focus on helping students learn from events and potential changes on the horizon. The desired result is that these individuals are better prepared for leadership and problem-solving in their fields.

Public Health Officials Must Learn from the Flint Water Crisis

Located in southeast Michigan, Flint has a population that is almost 57 percent African-American per the United States Census Bureau. The New York Times reported that after its water supply was switched from Detroit’s system to the Flint River, residents saw a drastic change in the taste, color and odor of their water. Soon, national attention was focused on the inappropriately treated water, its excessive amounts of lead and the residents’ inability to carry out basic tasks of life such as cooking, drinking, laundry and bathing. As of November 2016, the ongoing crisis continues to draw attention on social media.

Public administration courses of study around the country recognize within their own curricula that learning from these mistakes is crucial. For example, the Master of Public Health program at the University of Southern California (USC) published an article urging learners to move beyond mere economics in decision making. Part of the disaster’s cause lay in the refusal by Ed Kurtz, appointed by the state of Michigan as Flint’s Emergency Manager, to listen to concerns raised by Flint City Council about the difficulty of treating the local river water. Additionally, the water was not properly treated due to financial reasons.

Health Informatics Experts Must Be Aware of Emerging Challenges

Similarly, health informatics programs across the nation are including vital information for their students to understand the environments and industry in which they will service. The University of Cincinatti Online recently emphasized how data is expected to feed into clinical care decisions in the future, as well as affect how the infrastructures of healthcare providers is tooled. With new challenges such as reaching populations that lack adequate access to medical care, informatics professionals can be critical decision-makers shaping how healthcare networks deliver patient care. New and emerging technologies may be indispensable in reaching rural, poor or other underserved groups.

Looking Forward to the Future

While much media, cultural and social focus is on for-profit firms and industries, nonprofits and government agencies remain significant. Professionals in those organizations must learn from recent public health crises and understand concerns about marginalized populations being unable to access essentials for living. It’s important not to overly shift focus to the economics of a situation, and modern educational programs are increasingly placing emphasis on this point. Using available tools and information, as well as a willingness to engage in effective problem-solving, continue to be vital for those in serving professions well into the new century.

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