A poem by T.S. Eliot (1943) says, “We had the experience but missed the meaning.” As your experience in this course comes to a close, I don’t want you to miss the meaning of the materials you have read, papers you have written, and discussions we have had throughout the session. They are more than a series of assignments and grades – the end result should be an improvement in your higher-order thinking and your ability to make connections between thoughts and ideas. You can achieve that through reflection, the art of taking charge of your own mind. Reflection is a mental process that challenges you to use critical thinking to examine the course information, analyze it carefully, make connections with previous knowledge and experience, and draw conclusions based on the resulting ideas. A well cultivated critical thinker (Paul & Elder, 2008): raises vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely; gathers and assesses relevant information, using abstract ideas to interpret it effectively comes to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards; thinks open-mindedly within alternative systems of thought, recognizing and assessing, as need be, their assumptions, implications, and practical consequences; and communicates effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems. For this discussion, take some time to reflect upon 2 concepts that you learned . What are the concepts? What insight or ideas did you gain from learning ? Were there aspects of the concepts that you would challenge? What is the importance of these concepts to public health? How will you use this new wisdom in your current or future career?  In order to earn maximum credit, the comment should be more than your opinion, and more than a quick “off the top of your head” response. Be sure to support your statements, cite sources properly within the text of your comments, and list your reference(s). The response must be a minimum of 250 words. Britton, B. & Serrat (2013). Reflective Practice. Retrieved from Eliot. T.S. (1944) Four Quartets, The Dry Salvages, pt.2. London. Paul, R. & Elder, L. (February, 2008). The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools. Foundation for Critical Thinking Press

In this course, we have explored a variety of concepts that are relevant to public health and have the potential to improve our higher-order thinking skills. Two concepts that particularly stood out to me are health disparities and social determinants of health.

Health disparities refer to the differences in health outcomes and access to healthcare that exist among different population groups. These disparities are often driven by socioeconomic factors, such as income, education, and race/ethnicity. Learning about health disparities has provided me with a deeper understanding of the structural and systemic factors that contribute to health inequities. It has also highlighted the importance of addressing these disparities in order to achieve health equity for all individuals and communities.

One insight that I gained from learning about health disparities is the interconnectedness of various determinants of health. For example, socioeconomic status not only affects access to healthcare but also influences other factors like housing, education, and employment opportunities, which in turn impact health outcomes. This concept has helped me recognize the need for a comprehensive and multidimensional approach to improving public health. By addressing the underlying social and economic determinants of health, we can make significant progress in reducing health disparities and promoting health equity.

While I find the concept of health disparities to be crucial for public health, there are certain aspects that I would challenge. One such aspect is the limited focus on individual behaviors in some discussions around health disparities. While individual choices and behaviors certainly play a role in health outcomes, it is important to recognize the broader social, economic, and environmental factors that shape these choices. By solely blaming individuals for their health outcomes, we risk oversimplifying the complex web of factors that contribute to health disparities.

The social determinants of health further expand on the idea that health outcomes are influenced by factors beyond individual behaviors. These determinants refer to the social, economic, and environmental conditions in which people are born, live, work, and age. It encompasses factors such as income and wealth distribution, education, employment, housing, and access to healthcare services.

Understanding social determinants of health has highlighted the importance of addressing the root causes of health inequities. By tackling the social and economic factors that contribute to health disparities, we can make a more significant and sustainable impact on population health. This concept has also emphasized the need for collaborations across sectors and disciplines to create meaningful change. It is clear that public health initiatives alone cannot fully address social determinants of health, and efforts must be made to address issues such as poverty, education, and affordable housing.

Both health disparities and social determinants of health are of utmost importance to public health. Recognizing and understanding these concepts allows for a more comprehensive and nuanced approach to addressing health inequities. As a future public health professional, this knowledge will be invaluable in shaping my career. I will use this new wisdom to inform my work in developing interventions and policies that address the root causes of health disparities and promote health equity. Additionally, I will strive to incorporate a social determinants perspective into my analysis and decision-making processes to better understand the broader context in which health outcomes are shaped.

In conclusion, the concepts of health disparities and social determinants of health offer valuable insights into the complexities of public health and the factors that contribute to health inequities. By reflecting on these concepts and their implications, we can deepen our understanding and develop a more comprehensive approach to improving population health. As practitioners and researchers, it is our responsibility to use this knowledge to create meaningful change and promote health equity for all.