Toolkit Resources


Trends in Immigrant Adolescent Health in New York City: "Becoming an American Can Be Bad for your Health" - STIRS Student Case Study

Katie B. Wilson, MA
Department of Interdisciplinary Studies, Stella and Charles Guttman Community College,
The City University of New York
New York, New York

Abstract:  This case study examines health issues experienced by immigrant teens adapting to life in urban America, particularly adolescent girls from Mexico who have immigrated to New York City. The case study employs perspectives in public health, anthropology, and history.   In Part 1, students reflect on prior knowledge, consider initial perspectives, and meet Maria, the case’s fictional protagonist. In Part 2, students think through health trends in the US adolescent population and how these trends might impact newly arrived immigrant teens. Part 3 begins by introducing students to historical and contemporary perspectives on immigration in the United States and ends with an examination of the actual health profile reports from New York City. In Part 4, students use an interdisciplinary framework to analyze the impact of various factors contributing to Maria’s health status and connect their observations to evidence uncovered in the first three parts of the case. Additionally, students use the social-ecological model to think through possible interventions at different levels of society. Part 5 asks students to create an evidence-based solution that provides recommendations for improving Maria’s health, as well as the health of other adolescents who have recently immigrated to the United States. It is recommended that this case is taught as a whole, but instructors may choose to select certain sections of each part, depending on their learning goals.  This is an analysis case with ample opportunity for discussion.  Suggestions for additional assignments, including a service learning project, an innovative business plan, or a research paper are included.

Use in Courses:  This case was developed with a first-year, public health-related, interdisciplinary course in mind.  It would interest students and instructors in virtually any social science-related course in which cross-disciplinary and evidence-based reasoning are central learning outcomes. The case content is particularly appropriate for courses that touch on immigration, adolescent health, urban health, and/or health disparities.  It might be best utilized as an introductory activity, however, could also be used at any point in the semester. If used at the end of a semester as a culminating activity, it is suggested that the requirements for the final outcome – a public health recommendation report – might be extended.

Students are asked in this case to think about history, culture, social structures, health, adolescent development, urban anthropology, and more; issues of cultural diversity are aptly illustrated. The case is interdisciplinary in nature, therefore could be used in a variety of high impact practices, for example, a freshman seminar course, a themed course meant to provide a common intellectual experience, or a capstone course. This case also provides numerous opportunities for student written work, and thus could be employed in a writing-intensive course. Finally, service learning could be incorporated as an optional activity.

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Professor Wilson was named an AAC&U STIRS Scholar in 2014 and developed this case for the STIRS program.