Unit 2

Public Health Interventions: Grant Proposals and PSAs

(outreach and funding)

Early in your undergraduate career, it may seem that the most important type of writing you do in the natural sciences is the lab report. Writing a successful lab report teaches many of the key skills used in scientific writing such as detailed description, classification, and the use of logic and observable evidence. In the larger scope of scientific discourse, however, the skills learned by writing lab reports are most often applied to a variety of other forms. For instance, many scientists spend a great deal of time and energy procuring funding for research projects and doing some form of public outreach.

In this unit, we will enter the arena of public health, a field at the intersection of the natural sciences, social sciences, and medicinal research. Public health is broadly defined as the field of medicine that addresses the health of communities through educational outreach, preventative medicine, the reduction of environmental hazards, and general risk reduction strategies. For the purposes of the assignments in Unit 1, we’ll pretend that you are an undergraduate research assistant in UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health. You work with a research scientist concerned with the major public health issues facing the UNC undergraduate population. Your supervisor asks you to research a public health concern prevalent among UNC undergraduates (e.g meningitis, H1N1, HIV, unintended pregnancy, HPV, etc.) and write a proposal for the North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute’s (NC TraCS) Pilot Grant Program in which you ask for $2,000 to fund a “community intervention” to address the problem of your choosing.

Keep in mind that the public health concern that you choose should be pertinent to UNC undergraduates (so Alzheimer’s Disease, for instance, probably wouldn’t be the best choice, unless you’re considering the latest assertion that Alzheimer’s can be detected as early as 20).  Choose a topic that interests you because you will be working with this subject matter for the entire first unit of the class.

The assignments in this unit should challenge you to 1) critically examine the conventions of various forms of public health discourse 2) explore the ways in which audience and context dictates the form, tone, and style of your writing or your manner of audio-visual communication and 3) analyze and synthesize various forms of scientific data for your specific research goals.


Feeder 1: Mini-Literature Review and Intervention Evaluation
Length: 600-700 words
Manuscript preparation: APA format
Submission format: sakai dropbox

The literature review is one of the most challenging but important genres of scientific writing. The general purpose of the literature review is to provide an overall picture of the current work that is being done on a given topic. The literature review is sometimes used as a thumbnail sketch of a field, as a springboard for new research, or as an analysis of trends in current research. The literature review is also an important component of many grants written to secure funding for scientific research.

For both your NC TraCs Pilot Program grant proposal and Public Health Intervention PSA, you will need to do some research and craft this reach into a particular type of narrative: the literature review.  For this first feeder you will write a concise literature review that addresses current research regarding the public health issues facing UNC undergraduates and those interventions or preventative measures that best serve your public health concern.  Your review should address at least four separate studies and present at least two different interventions that have been evaluated for efficacy.  You may organize your literature review in any way you see fit, but for the purposes of this grant proposal, you should ultimately advance an evidence-based thesis promoting one form of prevention/intervention over others.

When writing your literature review, you should consider the following:

  • Does your thesis concisely argue for a distinct perspective regarding the material being reviewed?
  • How current are your sources?
  • Where were your sources printed? Are they respectable sources? Could they be biased for any reason?
  • Do you summarize and synthesize the most important points of each source?


Feeder 2: Public Health Intervention Public Service Announcement (PSA)
30-60 seconds
“Manuscript” Preparation: YouTube supported format or Vimeo supported format
Submission format: sakai dropbox

Create a 30-60 second video about your public health concern (and perhaps, suggested intervention).  The purpose of your PSA is to inform your audience (UNC students) of a public health concern and suggest an intervention.

Some questions you might consider in researching your topic and designing your PSA are:

  • What is the single most important fact that your intended audience should know about your public health concern?
  • Can you define your public health concerns to a reader with a sixth-grade reading level?
  • What are the causes of your public health issue?
  • Can your public health issue be treated? Cured?
  • How can individuals prevent exposure to or the spread of your public health concern?
  • What resources are available for those individuals concerned about this issue?
  • How can you convey information about your public health concern and suggestions for intervention in a meaningful and memorable manner? Does it keep the viewer engaged and interested while presenting its information in a straightforward manner?


Final Project: Grant Proposal, Modified NC TraCS Pilot Program Grant and presentation of PSA
: 1500-2000 words (including your literature review from 1.2, which should be revised!)
Manuscript preparation: APA format and YouTube supported format
Submission format: sakai dropbox for both grant proposal and promotional video; presentation (4-5 minutes)

For your NC TraCS Pilot Program Grant Proposal, you will create an action plan for implementing the intervention/preventative measure that you found most successful in your second feeder and solicit the Grant Committee for financial support. Your grant should include five sections: title page, abstract, introduction, project narrative (which should include your (revised) literature review), and budget. We will address each of the sections of the grant in class, but you should use the Writing Center’s handout on “Grant Proposals” as a reference guide in addition to consulting this handy cheat sheet on grant proposals.

You should be creative in proposing the implementation of your intervention, but use the studies you read in feeder 1 as models for successful action plans. Your budget should be concrete (i.e. cite where your price estimation comes from) so as to determine the scope of your intervention. For instance, if you are handing out condoms and pamphlets in the Pit to raise awareness for syphilis prevention you should price condoms and printing costs to determine how many students you hope to reach. If you suggest installing hand sanitizer stations in all UNC Libraries to curb the spread of H1N1, you may be limited by the cost of supplies, so you should price your materials before determining the scope of your program. Remember that you have a $2,000 limit.

A successful proposal will address the intended audience of the Grant Proposal Committee which is made up of scholars, doctors, as well as community members with no scientific background. The proposal will also offer clear and concise analysis of previous studies while outlining the ways in which your proposed intervention will draw upon the precedents of successful programs treated in your research.

At the conclusion of this unit, each student will present his or her intervention proposal and screen his or her accompanying PSA to the class.  In essence, this presentation should address the process how you came about selecting your public health concern, the various interventions you considered and why you settled on your final choice and what decisions went into the production of your PSA.  You will have 5 minutes for this presentation, please be sure to budget time for the viewing of your PSA.