To be perfectly honest, when I signed up for the online Public Health Merit Badge, I only wanted to get another merit badge towards Eagle. I thought “well, I suppose I’ll do it. I want more merit badges”. The funny thing is, sometimes the merit badges you think will be just something to earn end up being the most interesting. First of all, I had an awesome merit badge counselor. Unlike the other merit badges I earned, she seemed genuinely interested in my class learning, not just going through the motions. She encouraged us to research questions for ourselves and share information and ideas about our experiences and knowledge in class.
Second, we learned outside of what was required. We learned all sorts of things in class including (but definitely not limited to) how water spreads disease, the difference between immunization and vaccination, and about diseases like gonorrhea, West Nile virus, Zika, botulism, influenza, syphilis, hepatitis, emphysema, meningitis, herpes, and lead poisoning, to name a few. I also learned about the health drawbacks of water, air, and noise pollution. I had no idea there are so many!
One thing I learned that I hadn’t even thought about is how racism, especially systemic racism, is a public health crisis. If systemic racism forces some American minorities to have fewer economic and social opportunities than white Americans, this can put minorities in less than ideal living conditions and can lead to a decline in their physical and mental health. It made me think: The fact that people live in conditions like these at all is not okay, and the fact that systemic racism is an underlying cause is even worse. It is un-just to have people suffering when what makes them suffer is the unfairness of others.
This merit badge also taught me more about Covid-19, both in a public health way and a personal way. I learned about the spread of diseases like Covid-19 and even made this about staying safe during the pandemic video , but I also learned that you can still go to interesting places and learn new things during the Covid-19 pandemic. In the one plausible option for requirement 5, you have to go to a solid waste management operation. Normally during non-Covid-19 days we would go on a “field trip” in class, but this time we went by ourselves. I went to a transfer facility, or as many call it, “the dump”. Even though we had to wait in line to get in, it was definitely worth it. I had no idea what a dump looked like, and it was really interesting to see what people brought to the dump. I even saw a wagon in the pile and the pick-up truck in front of us dropped off a mattress!
I think that one of the main lessons to get out of this is that there is always time for learning, and that often scouts enjoy the merit badge more if their counselors seem excited and make an effort to teach scouts outside of the requirements. I really enjoyed this merit badge, and I think the others in my session did too.
Stay home! Stay safe!
Written by Scout Evelyn