5 Questions with Faculty: John Justino, Clinical Associate Professor

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Clinical Associate Professor and Director of the Center for Global Health, John Justino, has worked for nearly 20 years in international development and global public health. This includes over 15 years leading and consulting on social behavior change communications programs in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere around the world; focusing on HIV/AIDS prevention, malaria prevention and treatment, adolescent reproductive health, family planning, maternal and child health, and improved hygiene and sanitation. This Spring, Professor Justino was nominated for the Terra Award, an honor which recognizes an individual’s contribution to curriculum, operations, research and engagement. He was also recently featured in the University at Albany Office of Sustainability’s Spring 2021 Sustainability News Bulletin. At the School of Public Health, he teaches a number of global health courses, including two faculty-led education abroad programs implemented with partner institutions in Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic. Most recently, Professor Justino has begun teaching a new undergraduate elective entitled “Issues in Global Health” which focuses on a range of global burden of disease issues, as well as health equity and sustainable development.    

1. What interests you about teaching courses in global health?  

For much of my career, I lived and worked abroad (primarily in sub-Saharan Africa) leading global public health programs with funding from a wide range of international development assistance agencies. Here at the University at Albany School of Public Health, I work with students interested in global health studies and in launching global careers. I am quite passionate about global health and I enjoy sharing my experiences and lessons learned with these students. Beyond that, I feel all students need to graduate from our school with a global perspective and that they need to be well informed about today’s most pressing global health challenges.    

2. Why do you feel global health is such an important topic for our students to focus on?  

As has been made all too clear by the COVID-19 pandemic, public health is global health! The current pandemic also highlights the reality that today’s most pressing problems are global in scope and as such, they require global solutions. This is also why we place such a strong focus on sustainable development and the UN Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, in our new undergraduate elective course.    

3. Do you have any specific sustainability learning objectives for this new course?  

Since this is a global health course, our focus on sustainable development centers mostly on the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal No. 3, which relates to the promotion of good health and well-being for all people, of all ages, all around the world. So working to ensure health equity on a global scale is a major theme in the course.    

4. How do you measure if students have increased their sustainability literacy?  

Students’ knowledge is evaluated via in-class assignments, exams, online discussion forums and in class discussions focused on key topics related to global health and their links to the SDGs (in particular the achievement of SDG 3 targets). In addition, they apply their learning by developing a needs assessment paper for a selected low or lower-middle income country.    

5. Is there anything else you want students to know about your new course?  

Based on what I have seen so far, this course is quite an “eye opener” for most of the students enrolled. I have received a lot of feedback that indicates many of the topics covered, like the importance of the Sustainable Development Goals and looking at key drivers of the global burden of disease, are new to them. In addition, we also focus on helping students develop practical skills needed to work in the field of global health through the Country Needs Assessment assignment, which concludes with students presenting a related Academic Poster to their classmates.