Using a harm-reduction framework to guide teacher-student interactions


"It can feel overwhelming to be a graduate student during a pandemic, with balancing mental health and commitment to learning. The harm reduction framework is a great tool for educators and students to practice wellbeing while encouraging student success." - Shannon Mitchell (BCHS '21)

Teaching during this pandemic is hard, especially while supporting individual rights and balancing these with community health and social justice. Faculty from Pitt Public Health's Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences—including Jessica Burke, James Egan, Robert Coulter, and Mary Hawk—and student co-authors Shannon Mitchell (BCHS '21) and Abisola Olaniyan (BCHS '21) offer educators guidance on using harm-reduction principles to guide interactions with students while building compassionate, collectivist communities that allow people to learn and thrive.

The authors extend a harm-reduction approach traditionally associated with applications in substance use as a tool for thinking about how to balance population and personal health needs in a context of uncertainty, leading to a humanistic approach to decision making and risk taking. Burke reflects on the work, saying “Writing this article with a team of public health and harm reduction experts who have different roles at our graduate school clarified my viewpoint and expedited my adoption of a more compassionate and humanistic approach to interactions with students in this COVID-19 educational environment. My sincere hope is that others will also benefit from a better understanding of the six harm reduction principles and how they really can, and should, be applied in our new educational environments and beyond."

Check out the full article, A Compassionate Framework for Reducing Harm in Public Health Higher Education: Implications for the COVID-19 Pandemic," in the current edition of the journal Pedagogy in Health Promotion.


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