MAHA teaches Campbell University health sciences students about air quality

Feb 9, 2018

Professor Rebecca Crouch took a deep breath and blew until she felt light-headed and dizzy. She quickly clamped the balloon shut and inhaled to replenish her lungs with air. Using a ruler, she measured the balloon’s diameter at 16 centimeters, which is about 2200 cubic centimeters of air. RMK

Crouch was participating in an air quality activity that used balloons and rulers to measure her lung capacity. She had invited MAHA manager, Rachel McIntosh-Kastrinsky, to teach about air quality, health and advocacy during a Campbell University Interprofessional Education (IPE) Day training for health sciences students.

IPE trainings teach students to “practice collaboratively and provide safe, cost-effective and efficient patient-centered care.” Students learn about interdisciplinary issues that affect all health sciences programs through dynamic activities and presentations.

“Rachel was a great speaker. She kept the audience engaged with activities and scientific research,” said Crouch.

During the two-hour training on February 6, public health, pharmacy practice, medicine, clinical research and pharmaceutical sciences students learned about the health impacts of air pollution and climate change through hands-on activities, videos, and a presentation. In the first activity, students measured their lung capacity with balloons as Crouch did. In another activity, students breathed through a pinched straw to demonstrate what it is like to breathe during an asthma attack or when air pollution levels are high.

A couple of short videos by Planet Nutshell detailed how carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are causing climate change. The videos used the analogy of a blanket covering the planet to symbolize the layer of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Without the warming blanket the Earth would be too cold, but when the layer is too thick the planet gets too hot, which is what we call climate change. It is all about balance.

The presentation, grounded in scientific research, taught students about the key air pollutants affecting health, what the health impacts are and how students can make a difference as health professionals. Students learned about the respiratory and cardiovascular health effects from ozone and particulate matter, as well as the non-fatal impacts such as school absences and hospital admissions. McIntosh-Kastrinsky was happy to learn half the students already knew what the Air Quality Index (AQI) was and how to find it.At the end of the training, McIntosh-Kastrinsky encouraged students to become MAHA members to stay up-to-date on health impacts, research and advocacy activities. She also asked students to talk with their colleagues, friends, and family about what they learned today as a first step in becoming advocates and improving public health.