Written By: Matt Hirsch
Beginning this semester, Brooklyn College is offering HNSC 5191, a course covering all aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic with the hopes of educating students on the outbreak in real-time.
The course will delve into what caused the pandemic, how it has affected mental health, and the political repercussions of the last year. Organized by Health and Nutrition Sciences professor Michele Greene and spearheaded by Professor Jolanta Kruszelnicka, throughout the semester presenters with expertise in fields such as Epidemiology, Clinical Psychology, and even Nutrition will share their knowledge with an overtallied class of 39 students.
Professors Kruszelnicka and Greene worked with the entire Health and Nutritional Sciences department to develop the course.
“The faculty at the Health and Nutrition department have been discussing how we can contribute during the time of the pandemic, and especially because this is our field and our area of interest,” said Professor Kruszelnicka, who is also a member of NYC’s Test and Trace Advisory Board.
Open to any Brooklyn College student, HNSC 5191 will provide insight to the pandemic that hasn’t been as prominent in the public eye. COVID-19 has impacted nearly every facet of our lives and as such, the professors involved set out to create a curriculum that could tackle such a broad spectrum.
“We wanted to address challenges which are not specifically discussed in the media. So besides introducing the basic information about the virus and how it spreads, we wanted to open up conversation to disparities and what our students are learning about,” said Professor Kruszelnicka.
According to the American Psychological Association, it was reported in March that nearly 30% of adults in the United States believed COVID-19 was a hoax. Since then, attempts to slow the spread misinformation have been made. On Feb. 1, NYU and the global health organization Vital Strategies published an article that noted five methods governments have used to spread information, whether helpful or harmful. One positive example is the Taiwan FactCheck Center, an agency that debunks new information online.
“The general population typically doesn’t really know a lot about these issues. So we wanted to open the course to the general population of the students and to discuss those topics as well; for them to see this is not just once, it’s not a surprise. And the response in some ways is predictable, but in many ways it could be much better,” said Professor Kruszelnicka.
With new information constantly discovered about the ongoing public health crisis, the challenge to educate the public becomes greater every day. With vaccines finally available, the need for reliable information is at an all-time high, and the professors have launched HNSC 5191 to provide at least some of that information.
“There’s just so much that we don’t know, the knowledge is really evolving as we sit here now. Things are changing all the time and we don’t yet have a lot of information. There was no testing of the vaccine in pregnant women, for example. How would it affect them? Can they nurse their babies?” said Professor Greene. “It goes on and on. But I’m hopeful, I’m optimistic. I’m certainly more optimistic now than I was several months ago. And I think we can look forward to seeing some real changes.”