JMF walkabout

(The FASEB Journal. 2010;24:445.12)

Interdisciplinary Physiology: Walkable Neighborhoods, Obesity & Diabetes

Jenny Lee McFarland.
Biology, Edmonds Community College, Lynnwood, WA

As science educators, one of our goals is to help students learn to solve complex problems that they will encounter as individuals, scientists and health care providers. In physiology these problems involve human health and disease; solving them requires an interdisciplinary approach inextricably linked to social and environmental factors. Students need help putting these pieces together, making connections amongst disciplines. An integrative learning activity was used in a course for liberal arts students (biology of human disease) and a sophomore level human anatomy and physiology course for science and pre-nursing students. In this activity students explore the relationships among the physical environment, diet, exercise, obesity and diabetes as they analyze the causes and consequences of obesity and explore solutions to this complex public health issue. This activity helps students realize that, although physiological knowledge is essential for understanding the obesity epidemic, it is not sufficient. Sociological factors must also be considered as well as environmental ones. Interdisciplinary activities and explicit fostering of interdisciplinary thinking do impact student learning of physiology and student engagement in these courses.

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