Date of Award

January 2016

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)

Department

School of Public Health

First Advisor

Kaveh Khoshnood

Second Advisor

Danya Keene

Abstract

The purpose of this thesis is to explore the concept of empathy, or “the ability to share someone else’s feelings," in public health, examining the concept’s effect on both the ethical mandates of the profession and the validity of community-engaged research results. The ethical guidelines of the profession, as outlined by the American Public Health Association and other prominent public health researchers, were used to inform such an exploration, as was personal experience and Yale public health researcher insights. A case study of homelessness public health research was conducted. Interviews and surveys were conducted with prominent homelessness community advocates with public health experience, a public health researcher, and a formerly homeless individual with prior research experience.

The thesis’s exploration of empathy revealed many insights in regards to its importance in public health practice, as well as the differences between empathy and a simple understanding of populations and research participants. Interviews revealed that public health research performed using empathetic community engagement techniques led to more valid, applicable study results that were effective. Empathetic research practice allows for researchers to truly wrestle with and comprehend the real concerns and problems of the research participants, and this comprehension leads to research that is participant-driven, with results that are actually applicable to the community’s needs. Although this initial work has been done to investigate the importance of community-engaged public health research that is directed by empathy, it is important to continue this work, relying on work qualitative researchers already do in regards to engaging with populations they are studying and performing research with individual and community stories in mind.

Comments

This is an Open Access Thesis.

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