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National Public Health Week CHES® Spotlight: Daina Huntley, MPH, CHES, Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute (CGBI)

CHES® Career Profile: Clinical Research Specialist

In our series of career profiles on healthcare workers, we’re profiling a clinical research specialist who chose to pursue CHES® certification. To learn more about the CHES® exam and certification, click here.

We sat down with Daina Huntley, MPH, CHES®, a social clinical research specialist at the Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute (CGBI) in the Department of Maternal and Child Health at the Gillings School of Public Health at UNC Chapel Hill. Her work focuses on implementing and evaluating a state-wide breastfeeding-friendly training curriculum through partnership activities, project coordination, and community mobilization. 


What is a health education specialist and what does your role entail?

The main issue I tackle as a health educator is the implementation of best practices that support breastfeeding families. I mainly work with N.C. Early Care and Education professionals on Breastfeeding Friendly Child Care best practices in child care programs. My tasks include designing and conducting in-person training, maintaining online learning modules for providers, engaging stakeholders to discover and address needs, and serving on the state designation's application review committee.

READ MORE: How to Become a Health Education Specialist

Additionally, I'm a co-founding member of Queen City Cocoa B.E.A.N.S. (Breastfeeding Education, Advocacy, Normalcy, and Support), a volunteer organization that directly serves the community in Charlotte, N.C. and surrounding areas by providing spaces for families of color to support each other on their parenting journey. Queen City Cocoa B.E.A.N.S. promotes lactation education and health disparity awareness through several family meetups throughout the month, annual community baby showers, and professional meeting and conference presentations.

What drew you to a career in maternal and child health?

I think most of us know that breastfeeding is a good thing. What most people aren’t too familiar with are the risks of not breastfeeding. As a student, I thought it was important that people knew the facts and made informed feeding choices. This general education is still important, but I've learned that it is critical to also address health disparities within Maternal and Child Health. 

In addition to lower breastfeeding rates, black infants in America are twice as likely to die before their first birthday as white infants and black moms cannot earn or educate their way out of worse health outcomes compared to white moms. Being a health educator and lactation professional gives me the skills to address these issues by educating individuals, families, and policy makers.

What resources would you share with other health educators about Maternal and Child Health?

My recommendations would be:

How have recent events concerning the COVD-19 pandemic affected your work as a health education specialist?

There are limited studies on COVID-19 and how it affects maternal and child health. Every morning our team is checking to see if any interim guidance was created or changed overnight and, if so, we’re updating our COVID-19 resource page and determining how we will proceed with projects. Training will need to be reworked for virtual delivery while maintaining interactivity and reframed to acknowledge our new reality.

CHES® Certification for Public Health Educators

Are you interested in learning more about how to gain the skills and information you need to succeed as a public health education professional? Consider CHES® certification. Certified Health Education Specialists (CHES®) are skilled in a variety of components of public and private health education initiatives, including:

  • Research
  • Planning
  • Implementation
  • Evaluation
  • Advocacy
  • Communication
  • Leadership and Management
  • Ethics and Professionalism

READ MORE: The 7 Areas of Responsibility for CHES®

NCHEC offers resources for public health professionals looking for public health education certification as well as study guides, resources to help you market your degree and certifications, and more.

How to Become a Health Education Specialist

Posted by Jessica Wessner at 06:00

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