Health and Illness in Context

Health and Illness in Context: Pragmatic approaches to understanding and addressing the social determinants of human health and wellbeing within an urban safety net.

OHSU's Global Health Center and Central City Concern have partnered to offer this innovative course. Central City Concern is a nationally-recognized Portland agency whose mission is to provide pathways to self-sufficiency through active intervention in poverty and homelessness.

Students explore the social determinants of health through an experiential elective, learning from those who've been there and back, about life on the streets and services available to homeless individuals. They explore Old Town and Chinatown's diverse community resources and help to identify gaps in local service networks plus explore opportunities to address these.

The course provides insights into the challenges and barriers to leaving street life behind.  Students get to immerse themselves in the lives of Portland's most vulnerable and investigate ways they can help—as a health professional and a community member.

Health and Illness in Context Article


This course recognizes that a person’s health care must be addressed in the context of their lifestyle and environment. Through a partnership between OHSU and Central City Concern (CCC), students interact with people who are homeless, unemployed and addicted. Over the course of six weeks students in this elective learn about the challenges and barriers to Portland’s most vulnerable populations.  Read article

Student quotes

 “It really was kind of a theme that developed as the afternoon went on that a home is necessary to a functional, healthy life.  It gives a sense of safety, a place where one can be expected to be found.  I can see how it probably is a critical first step to recovery.”

“I am starting to get a better understanding of how the services work together.  Honestly, it seems more complex to me now (the issue of homelessness) because there is so much involved.”

“I enjoyed every week.  Highlights were the Blanchet House, Mentor program, and the Justice Center.  I also really enjoyed the discussions we had amongst ourselves and the discussions with personnel from Central City Concern.”


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