New minor in health education and promotion

Charity Akhidenor.For Charity Akhidenor, who works with the University of Washington Bothell's Health Educators Reaching Out (HERO) program, the new minor in health education and promotion feels tailor-made.

A health studies major planning to graduate in 2019 and one of the several HEROs hired through UW Bothell Recreation & Wellness, Akhidenor works in student outreach programs that include stress reduction, sexual health, and body image and nutrition.

Akhidenor and two other HEROs are among the first cohort of students in the new minor launched this year by the School of Nursing & Health Studies.

Many people don’t know a lot about the profession of health education and promotion because it’s the behavioral and social science side of public health, said Jody Early, associate professor in the School of Nursing & Health Studies. 

The health education and promotion minor prepares students to become a certified health education specialist, also known as a health coach or navigator. Graduates may work at government agencies, hospitals, schools and corporations. 

“With Obamacare and a greater focus on prevention, the demand for health education specialists has just boomed,” said Early. “Washington state is one of the largest employers of certified health education specialists in the nation."

Skilled professionals are needed because only a fraction of the U.S. population is considered health literate — able to understand basic health information or to follow a drug prescription or childhood immunization schedule, according to the U.S. Department of Health and the National Assessment of Adult Literacy.

Charity AkhidenorAkhidenor, left, who plans a career in the health field, was “really excited” to hear the minor was official. After meeting with an adviser and declaring the minor, Akhidenor enrolled in two of the fall quarter classes: health communication and health management and leadership. There’s a lot in common with HERO.

“We talk about the same issues, such as the social determinants of health,” Akhidenor said. “This minor and the HEROs are a great collaboration.”

Graduates of the minor will be prepared to take an exam with the National Coalition for Health Education & Credentialing, a professional organization whose credentials can improves students' marketability. The minor is attractive to majors outside nursing and health studies who want to have those credentials, Early said. 

Coursework for the minor is designed to connect learning to experience through community partners. Classes are offered in a hybrid model where about 60 percent are on campus and 40 percent are online or in the community, Early said. Students can complete the requirements in about a year, depending on other classes.

The “promotion” part of the minor is significant for its human-rights approach. 

“Health advocacy is an important aspect of the work that we do as health education specialists. Here at UW Bothell, we are preparing our students to engage and work with communities to improve health equity and bring about individual as well as social change,” Early said.

Early is one of the people who helped create the new minor. Others include Assistant Professor Dan Bustillos, Assistant Professor Victoria Breckwich Vasquez and Senior Lecturer Grace Lasker, as well as several part-time faculty including, Carrie Lanza, Kristina Mayer and Hoa Appel.   

More details on declaring the minor are available on the SNHS website and this video.