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Certification Spotlight: An Interview with Vannessa Fuentes, CHES®

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 immensely for public protection measures, and support many other critical health education and health behavior measures. The following interview is part of an ongoing series to highlight the remarkable work efforts of our credential-holders.


Name: Vannessa Fuentes, MPH, CHES®, CPH
Job Title: Health Educator
Career Sector: Government 
Years’ Experience: 7

NCHEC: What is your current job title and where do you work?

Vannessa: My current job title is Health Educator and I work for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. I develop and deliver educational programs for youth in high schools on such topics as mental health, substance use, and reproductive health.

NCHEC: How has your role as Health Educator evolved as a result of COVID-19?

Vannessa:  I began to wear many hats as a result of the pandemic! My roles include:

  • Public Heath Specialist Tasks
  1. work with the Public Health Department's Patient Interview Team, interviewing patients who have tested positive (to learn more about how they may have been exposed to the virus and if there are others who may have been exposed to it)
  2. proofread, edit and translate contact tracing script from English to Spanish to provide Spanish seakers with accurate wording and information
  3. train/mentor new contact tracers in Spanish and English
  • Health Educator and Liaison Tasks
  1. provide technical assistance (in regards to COVID-19) to principals, directors and school affiliates in reopening Los Angeles County schools safely
  2. schedule Los Angeles County Department of Public Health school site visits for School Technical Assistance Team (STAT) members
  3. arrange meetings between COVID-19 emergency response school teams and STAT
  4. attend weekly COVID-19 update tele-briefings and STAT meetings
  5. create and adapt messages with technical terms to send out to Los Angeles County school personnel
  6. participate as health educator in the Public Health Task Force- a NaCo Award Winning Program (program 
  7. focus on educating and informing high school students about public health issues and prevention strategies)

NCHEC: Can you give an example of how you and your organization are providing services to your community?

Vannessa: The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LACDPH) is continuously providing the community with health education and resources through programs, social media, in-person services, and other methods.

The program I am involved with is connected to the school system. I have taken part in the School Technical Assistance Team, the Public Health Task Force, the Youth Advisory Council, and Emergency Management Unit. I have helped in providing community members with correct information and technical assistance regarding COVID-19. The LACDPH Wellbeing Center program also collaborated in the Ambassador program to teach parents about COVID-19.  My team also helped LA County schools reopen safely by providing site visits, answering inquiries and addressing complaints.

The program I am involved with is connected to the school system. I have taken part in the School Technical Assistance Team, the Public Health Task Force, the Youth Advisory Council, and Emergency Management Unit. I have helped in providing community members with correct information and technical assistance regarding COVID-19. The LACDPH Wellbeing Center program also collaborated in the Ambassador program to teach parents about COVID-19.  My team also helped LA County schools reopen safely by providing site visits, answering inquiries and addressing complaints.

NCHEC: Have you experienced positive change or strides made in public health/community health over the past year?

 Vannessa: Despite public health having a rough year with misinformation, I am amazed by how our youth have responded to this pandemic. They know so much more than I did about public health at their age. The questions I receive from future health professionals are so detailed and specific that I have to really ponder my answer.

I also feel that people are more conscious of their health and prevention strategies. It is amazing to see that they want to learn more. Additionally, I have noticed that there has been an exponential growth in health education and resources. It is inspiring!

NCHEC: Have you seen an increased recognition of the role of the health education specialist since the onset of the pandemic?

Vannessa: Yes, I have because I have received many questions and people are genuinely curious about my job. Before the pandemic, many people were not familiar with public health, but I'm glad that things are changing. I feel that it will benefit our society as a whole. It fills me up with great joy and hope when community members ask me about my journey as a health educator. There are many people that want to earn a degree concentrated in health, and so I do my best to explain the steps I took and how to accomplish career goals.

NCHEC: What advice do you have for newly certified health education specialists ready to enter the current work force?

Vannessa:  You have what it takes. If you make a mistake, take it as a learning lesson. Just know that you don't have to know everything. Health is ever-evolving. You are ever-evolving. Take time to heal and grow. It is fine to take a break. As you get more experience, whether it be volunteering or a full time job, you will figure out what works best for you. Remember that:

  • It might take time to get the job that you want.
  • You do not have to be on your A game all the time.
  • Yes, volunteer experience is considered work experience.
  • Eventually, with patience and determination, you will accomplish your goals.
  • Focus on yourself and things will fall into the right places.
  • Just remember to know your worth and take care of yourself!

Ready to learn more? Request our presentation kit that illustrates the benefits of NCHEC certification or join our mailing list for the latest NCHEC news.

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