High school students compete in Global Health Case Competition at the University

The University’s Center for Global Health partnered with Monticello High School’s Health and Medical Sciences Academy to address youth health issues in Appalachia


The winning HMSA team received copies of the book “Mountains Beyond Mountains” by Tracy Kidder and $500. 

Courtesy Neeka Nazari

“The core principle of Global Health is the practicality of the developed solutions because they are intended to be implemented in the world, rather than just be theoretically explored,” said Owen Little, a third-year in the College, in an email sent to The Cavalier Daily. 

Little recently mentored a group of high-school students to present solutions for a global health case in a Global Health Case Competition held at the Darden School of Business Tuesday. 

Youth health issues ranging from obesity to drug abuse, as well as socioeconomic problems such as poverty, are common in the Appalachian region. This prompted University students to write a global health case — a description of health-related issues and their context — on the region. High school students from the Monticello Health and Medical Sciences Academy worked to develop and present solutions to this case. During the competition, HMSA students presented their research and a five-year plan describing the implementation of their solutions to a panel of judges and audience. 

HMSA students formed groups of four to six people to tackle the case with the guidance of University students who have previously competed in the Center for Global Health Case Competition, which is held annually at the University. The mentors spent a week getting to know the students and going over outlines they created on how to write and deconstruct a case — a detailed description of health-related issues that can be addressed from interdisciplinary fields. 

Once the case on Appalachian youth health was released, the students were given two weeks to prepare their presentations. University mentors guided the students during their brainstorming process and gave feedback on their proposed solutions and presentations throughout the course of the program.

The students then presented their solutions at a competition composed of two rounds. In the first round, all eight teams competed, and one team was then picked from three groups to move onto the final round in which all judges and an audience listened to their presentations. The winning HMSA team received copies of the book “Mountains Beyond Mountains” by Tracy Kidder and $500.  

The case for this competition challenged students to address many factors related to health in Appalachia including high rates of diabetes and obesity, insufficient access to health care, low graduation rates and youth opioid abuse. 

“Global health issues are inherently interdisciplinary, and a well-written case will include many factors that underlie the issue such as history, policy, conflict and culture,” said Sara Krivacsy, third-year Global Public Health major and chair of the Case Competition Committee in the Center for Global Health, in an email to The Cavalier Daily. “The case competition challenges students to think broadly and critically about an array of global issues.”  

The case on Appalachian youth health was originally written by University students for the fall 2014 competition and was used again for the HMSA student competition. The case was meant to have the students consider problems present in an area that is nearby but very different from Charlottesville in its culture and educational and health resources. 

“We wish to draw participants’ attention to the idea that issues of global health, often perceived as distant, are very close by,” said April Ballard, the associate director for program development at the Center for Global Health, in an email to The Cavalier Daily. 

Bailey Logan, a freshman HMSA student who participated in the case competition this year said that for she thought the case on Appalachian youth health was interesting but would have preferred a case focused on an issue in a country other than the United States. 

“I would have liked something a bit more international … because it [allows] you to get into a completely different culture,” Logan said. 

Not only were HMSA students tasked with developing solutions to issues in Appalachia, but the program also challenged them to write their own mini-case to explore and focus on their global health interests. The process of writing a case was meant to help the students understand the important components within one — background historical context on the subject, information about the culture in the region, manageable and complex issues of different fields, including health, economic and political factors and existing programs already addressing these issues. 

However, some mentors said that the students did not have enough time to complete this part of the program before the case for the competition was released. 

“The major challenge this year is the time crunch,” said Mila Ho, first-year College student and mentor for the competition. “I think it would help a lot more if I had time to connect with my group and build up more of a group mentality before going into the case.” 

Although Ho thought they did not have enough time to write a case, she said that she still guided her group in exploring global health issues and talking about what a global health case looks like. The students she mentored were interested in factors contributing to high suicide rates in Japan, so they researched and discussed different aspects of this problem. 

The HMSA students were able to see what it is like to address an international global health case when they attended the University’s Global Health Case Competition on the topic of women’s health in Nicaragua in February. The high school competition was structured similarly to the University competition, but University students were competing for a paid trip to the Emory International Global Health Case Competition. 

Little said that attending this event at the University made the high schoolers more familiar with case competitions and made them excited to work on their own projects.

“[The HMSA students] are all incredibly intelligent and have come up with some of the most creative solutions,” Little said in an email sent to The Cavalier Daily. “They are all extremely willing and enthusiastic about this program, which makes it so much more enjoyable for everyone.”  

The Center for Global Health is looking to maintain its new partnership with the HMSA and to spread this opportunity to other schools in the community. 

“We’re hopeful that we can expand the heart of this program — the near-peer mentoring relationship between students — with other high schools in the context of University-community partnership,” Ballard said.

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