NCHEC is extremely proud of the many health CHES® and MCHES® who serve as essential personnel in many different sectors across the US. Health Education Specialists have assumed critical roles in the identification, control, and assurance of the needs of individuals and communities. They advocate fiercely for public protection measures, and support many other critical health education and health behavior measures. As our nation continues to move forward in addressing and recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of a competent certified health education workforce is as significant and essential as ever before.
The following interview is part of a new series to highlight the remarkable work efforts of our credential-holders.
Name: Emily Pratt, BS, CHES®
Job Title: Health Educator
Years’ Experience: 4.5
Career Sector: Government/Health Department
NCHEC: What is your current job title and where do you work?
Emily: My job title is Health Educator and I currently work for the Marquette County Health Department in Negaunee, Michigan. Health educators who are employed by health departments frequently work in grant-funded programs. Currently, I coordinate our Department’s harm reduction program, which includes providing syringe access. Previously, I have worked in both suicide prevention and family health education.
NCHEC: How has your health educator role changed as a result of COVID-19?
Emily: With the onset of COVID-19, a few additional tasks were added to my existing role as a Health Educator. I was now the Isolation/Quarantine Coordinator, which coordinated a team of staff that would address housing needs for community members that needed to isolate or quarantine due to COVID-19 related circumstances. I also served as the Volunteer Coordinator within our incident command structure as our agency took the lead in local response to the pandemic. I scheduled and trained volunteers that assisted in our pandemic response by staffing a hotline or working at mass vaccine clinics. In addition to those two coordinator roles, health education staff (including myself) were utilized to assist the public health nurses in close contact monitoring and positive case investigations.
NCHEC: Can you give an example of how your organization is providing health education & support to your community members?
Emily: The health department has had a large role in providing health education to our community members throughout the pandemic. We have provided individual and family counseling on disease progression, signs and symptoms of COVID, testing guidelines, and close contact monitoring. We have also provided education to local businesses about cleaning and closing guidelines for when an employee tests positive. We have also done community-wide messaging and education on what to do if you have symptoms and how to access testing.
NCHEC: Have you seen positive change in public and community health over the past year?
Emily: Anecdotal evidence from public health nurses says that our influenza cases were lower this year than previous years, likely due to non-medical interventions (i.e. masking and social distance).
NCHEC: What advice do you have for newly certified health education specialists ready to enter the current work force?
Emily: Get involved at your workplace. Say yes to taking on additional duties and other roles, as you are able to do so. I feel that I have learned so much and have gained many new skills.