University bags global citizenship award for healthcare initiative

A University of Manchester initiative which engages its students’ healthcare improvement work in hard to reach communities in the UK and beyond has come third in a prestigious international prize for global citizenship.

The Humanising Healthcare programme gives dentistry, pharmacy and optometry students the chance to deliver healthcare and healthcare education to poorer communities as part of the curriculum.

The MacJannet Prize for Global Citizenship, launched in 2009, recognizes exemplary university student civic engagement programs around the world and is a key element in the MacJannet Foundation’s work to build a community of global citizens.

The prize is sponsored jointly by the MacJannet Foundation and the Talloires Network, a global association of 388 universities in 77 countries on six continents, all committed to developing student leaders who are actively engaged with society.

The Selection Committee said they were impressed by the initiative and wished to recognize and support the continued civic and community engagement work.

The scheme built on the success of a dentistry Service-Learning programme called Humanising Dentistry’, established in 2012 by Dr Senathirajah (Raj) Ariyaratnam and shortlisted for the 2018 MacJannet prize for Global Citizenship.

The work extended to pharmacy and optometry education to create the ‘Humanising Healthcare’ programme.

Dr Ariyaratnam said: “Humanising Healthcare is based on the premise that we cannot create excellent healthcare professionals of tomorrow without creating engaged ones.

“Our goal is therefore to support students to deliver essential healthcare and healthcare education to different communities as part of the curriculum.

“But it’s also about encouraging global volunteering while creating a workforce characterised by civic values and skills that have direct community benefit in meeting health challenges.”

Up to 2019, when COVID-19 struck, around 1,000 dental students treated 38,720 paediatric and 140,800 adult patients respectively over 10 years as a core part of the curriculum.

And 150 students volunteered in 15 countries across the world to provide oral health care and education to thousands of people under the supervision of the local dentists.

Humanising Healthcare is based on the premise that we cannot create excellent healthcare professionals of tomorrow without creating engaged ones
Dr Raj Ariyaratnam

Working with students to co-design bespoke healthcare services in the UK, they helped refugees and asylum seekers, LGBTQ+ community members and native non-English speakers.

During the pandemic, dental students provided online support to Chinese and Tamil speaking Manchester communities which was extended to provide quality COVID information for hard-to-reach communities North Sri Lanka.

In 2019 the University hosted the UK’s first national Service Learning in Healthcare conference; as a result, a UK healthcare Service-Learning framework is now being developed.

Students organise an annual ‘DentMan’ conference to share their community experience with peers and to inspire future generation. The 2021 conference strengthened links with students and teachers at the University of Ghana.

The year three pharmacy curriculum was transformed to deliver healthcare awareness raising workshops to local 14 and 15-year-old school pupils.

Since 2017, over 400 pharmacy students have delivered 100 workshops to over 3000 pupils as part of the assessed core curriculum.

Topics include antibiotic resistance, mental health, wellbeing, diabetes, obesity and alcohol awareness. The workshops were well received by both high school pupils, teachers and the students delivering them.

Dr David Allison a Reader in Pharmacy Education at the University said: “We aim to help improve the health of the population by raising awareness of healthcare issues that start in adolescence

“It also gave our students an opportunity to give something back to society, and enhance their community engagement skills and sense of civic responsibility.

“ This is a unique, beneficial and enjoyable learning experience for our students; it is the first example of Service–Learning as a core curriculum activity in any UK School of Pharmacy”

An optometry clinic within the University has been running in Manchester as part of the optometry programme since 1913.

The clinic is a service learning centre that provides community eye care services to the local population while allowing students to gain valuable experience through providing the service.

Students and staff regularly engage with local schools and public through a series of activities. And more than 400 students have engaged with international and national charities to help raise eye health awareness.

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