Non-Traditional Placement Learning in Public Policy and Health: Lessons from Northeast England



Aim This presentation overviews and evaluates non-traditional postgraduate placements at the intersection of policy, managerial and front-line public health work in deprived urban areas. Background The past 15-20 years have seen the development of 'non-traditional' placements within a wide range of health-related professions. The literature on these placements does not include masters students studying public policy and health and does not specifically focus on placements in very deprived areas. Method Participant observation by the coordinating academic staff and evaluation through interviews with 15 placement providers, 16 student placement reports and reflections, and 16 student placement evaluations. Placement description Four week long placements were undertaken by two cohorts during the 2014/15 & 2016/17 academic years. The placements were undertaken in local government areas ranked 1st - 97th (of 326) in England in terms of the proportion of residents within the most deprived bandings. Students and providers were carefully matched according to organisation need and students' interests. Findings Placement providers and students were overwhelmingly positive. Success was measured by placement providers in terms of demonstrable outputs that facilitated organisational gaols and increased staff reflection about practice. Students valued experiencing aspects of provision and policy implementation they hadn't previously considered, understanding the social dynamics of deprivation, and honing their skills. Conclusion This is an effective collaboration for both students and professionals however it is time intensive for the academic staff, requires considerable negotiation, is subject to changing political and financial circumstances, and would not be easily replicable for cohorts with large numbers. Key Messages 1. Placements in deprived urbans areas for masters students can provide valuable learning experiences for students and placement providers alike. 2. Students working amongst very deprived and vulnerable people found the placements 'transformational'; several have since chosen to seek work amongst population groups they previously wouldn't have considered. 3. Arranging these placements is challenging; sustaining the placement provider pool is also challenging particularly for larger student groups and in times of political and economic change. Key words Education, Public health policy, Public health workforce


Sharyn Maxwell

Durham University

The primary theme of my career is improving health and healthcare for people who struggle to access healthcare services whether because of developmental disabilities, mental illness, or socioeconomic circumstances. I have a life long interest in whole systems approaches to the organisation, delivery and evaluation of health care services and a current focus on the education of health professionals, issues around gender in health and how these might intertwine to produce a future health workforce committed to reducing health inequalities. I have a multidisciplinary academic background and worked in various sectors - the Australian public service, health-related charities in Australia, India and Sri Lanka, Christian ministry, and higher education in Australia and the United Kingdom.