Lightning Talk

Using Eco-maps to Assist Students in Recognizing the Social Determinants of Health and Addressing Their Impact Through Collaborative Practice

Sunday, August 21, 2022, 1:30 pm - 2:30 pm CDT
social determinants of health

Eco-maps are graphical representations showing how systems are interconnected in an individual's life. Commonly used in individual and family counseling settings, we have extended the use of eco-maps to facilitate health professions students’ recognition of the social determinants of health (SDoH) and the impact of SDoH on individual and community health. This lightning talk will discuss this novel use of eco-maps in interprofessional education (IPE) to advance students’ understanding of the impact of and barriers associated with SDoH. The University at Buffalo IPE program delivers a robust foundational-level exposure learning experience serving ~1,000 health professions students from 16 programs each semester. In Fall 2021, we developed an innovative case-based IPE learning experience using eco-maps as the framework for discussions of SDoH, their impact, and the necessity for collaboration among healthcare professionals to provide optimal care and improve patient outcomes. Prior to participating in a virtual, faculty-facilitated small group discussion, students engaged in online learning about SDoH, eco-maps, and were directed to construct an eco-map based on a robust case. During the small group discussion, students’ eco-maps were used as the framework for the discussions of SDoH, health equity, and the importance of interprofessional collaborative practice. Because eco-maps provide a visual representation illustrating people and factors that positively or negatively impact a person’s well-being and health, the SDoH in the case becomes more readily apparent. Students (n=942) reported (>80%) feeling better able to identify the SDoH and discuss systemic barriers to quality healthcare. The faculty were also provided brief training on how to incorporate eco-maps in facilitating small group discussions. Faculty (n=113) (>80%) felt eco-maps were effective for identifying and discussing SDoH, their impact, and potential collaborative practice mitigation strategies. Taken together, eco-maps are a novel instructional design strategy to promote discussion of SDoH and health equity.