Scavenger hunt sends public health students into the community

Many people rarely consider the role that public health plays in their lives, while at the same time, it is something they interact with daily.


In Harnett County it can be harder to find public health at work, because, like other rural communities, it faces many challenges in protecting the health of its residents.


Students in Campbell University’s newest program were recently sent on a scavenger hunt to explore the difference that public health makes in Harnett County. A total of 12 items were on the list. They were asked to either bring each item back to class or take a photo of it. 


“We couldn’t find the nutritional information in a restaurant in Harnett County that wasn’t fast food,” said Rebekah West, a native of Fuquay-Varina and member of the Master of Science in Public Health’s charter class.


Assistant Professor of Public Health David Tillman, who facilitated the scavenger hunt, explained the requirements for offering nutritional content at a chain restaurant versus a local restaurant, “If there are a certain number of restaurants in the chain, the company is obligated to provide the information.”


Something else difficult for students to find was air quality flags.


“How many were already aware of the flags?” Tillman asked. Three out of 18 students raised their hands.


“They weren’t on the flag pole. Someone said the guy had resigned, so the person filling in didn’t know what the flags meant,” said McKenzie Hobbs, who is originally from Smithfield. 


They found the flags in a drawer at the health department, Hobbs added.


Tillman used this experience to discuss the importance of public health. “Remember when we had a conversation about why it is important to get out into the community? Inside these four walls, problems seem easy to solve, but this is an example of what I was talking about.”


Cody Oxendine shared next, “There is a program called S.H.O.P. that stands for stop HIV/AIDS in our community program. It targets African Americans in barber shops and beauty salons. They offer preventative brochures in both English and Spanish, HIV facts and STD testing.”


Tillman was excited his students found information about this program.


“I think it is such a neat idea to target this population by meeting folks where they are,” he said. “That’s the kind of innovative approaches we hope you will take out to the community as you develop your skills in our program.”


Oxendine grew up near Pembroke. He enrolled in Campbell’s public health program because he wants to return to his community and help the Lumbee Indian population.


Only one out of the three groups found everything for the scavenger hunt, but the main goal was accomplished and the big picture was set. All of the students were introduced to the community and experienced first-hand how public health can make a difference in people’s lives.


Photo: Public health students pictured with Debbie Byrd, adolescent parenting program coordinator, at the Teens as Parents facility in Lillington, N.C. This location was one of the stops on their scavenger hunt, exploring the difference public health makes in Harnett County.