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COVID-19 Spotlight: Cynthia Karlsson, CHES®

NCHEC is extremely proud of the many health CHES® and MCHES® who serve as essential personnel in the continual fight against this global pandemic. They 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 during these very difficult times. As our nation moves forward in addressing and recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of a competent certified health education workforce will be as significant and essential as ever before.

The following interview is part of a new series to highlight the amazing work efforts of our credential-holders.

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

Cynthia: I work as a senior health educator for the Washington State Department of Health.

NCHEC: Can you describe your role within the Department?

Cynthia: At the Washington State Department of Health, some programs and divisions do not have dedicated health educators yet still have a need for one. In order to bridge budget constraints with varying needs, our agency provides a type of internal consultant service that divisions can utilize the services of a health educator.  Senior health educators are an available resource to conduct literature reviews and collect data and community input to inform program development. Program development includes research, planning, implementation, and evaluation for relevance and effectiveness of health education programs, including pre and post-program community/audience testing. I have enjoyed working on projects from foundational evidence-based public health practice, to prevention programs, such as gun violence, Hepatitis, and suicide prevention; to communicating safe shell fishing and rabies notification – all using equity and culturally appropriate messaging.

NCHEC: How have your responsibilities changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Cynthia: My role has changed significantly during COVID-19. A large number of employees at the agency have been reassigned or “activated” to the COVID-19 taskforce Incident Management Team (IMT). Our roles may include developing public health messages related to mitigating personal exposure to COVID-19, making contact tracing calls to members of the public who have had close contact with someone testing positive to COVID-19, or taking over another coworker’s role while they are activated. In addition, we are updating education programs to a virtual format, including WIC clinics. 

NCHEC: Do you feel that your Department has gained increased recognition for the critical role of health education specialists/health educators in public and community health?

Cynthia:  Seattle-area leaders were aware of the crisis emerging in Wuhan, China. About three weeks prior to the confirmation of U.S. patient #1, the Seattle area held a coordinated emergency response activity preparing for a pandemic. When the positive COVID-19 confirmation came back on patient #1, the coordinated emergency response with first responders, local hospital, and hospital workers were well prepared to handle the case.

"I am proud to work for the Washington State Department of Health were priority is placed on data, science, and evidence to make evidence-based decisions, which has been highlighted on national coverage of Washington State’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis."
Posted by Jessica Wessner at 07:00

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