To pursue a profession in the field of health education and promotion, there are certain skills and competencies that constitute the term: health education specialist. To put it simply, a nation-wide survey of practitioners from all career sectors of health education and promotion has been carefully executed by a special task force of subject matter experts devoted to creating a 'framework' for those in the field as well as students completing academic degree programs at both the undergraduate and graduate level. This framework, or blueprint, goes a step further to delineate what is defined as an entry-level competency, and what constitutes an advanced-level skill utilized by experienced practitioners.
And it’s all about to change. The most recent practice analysis study, known as the Health Education Practice Analysis (or HESPA II 2020) has identified new Responsibilities and Competencies that are being utilized by specialists across the country. And it will change the material on both the CHES® and MCHES® certification examinations beginning in the year 2022.
Here’s what you need to know.
How Have the Responsibilities and Competencies changed?
There are now Eight Areas of Responsibility for Health Education Specialists – up from seven identified in the previous job analysis (the HESPA 2015). Enter the essential skill of effective communication techniques across many different population demographics, including new platforms and modes of delivery, as well as accessibility options… well, you get the idea, our world of technology is expanding daily. Add in ethics, professionalism, leadership, and advocacy into the mix, and the matrix keeps evolving at a rapid pace.
What are the new Eight Areas of Responsibility?
In a nutshell, the Eight Areas of Responsibility incorporate, in some fashion, the older 7 Areas of Responsibility, with some new additions. Here is the updated list:
Area I: Assessment of Needs and Capacity
Area II: Planning
Area III: Implementation
Area IV: Evaluation and Research
Area V: Advocacy
Area VI: Communication
Area VII: Leadership and Management
Area VIII: Ethics and Professionalism
When will the CHES® and MCHES® exam content change?
- The MCHES® exam content will change to the new Areas of Responsibility first, in April of 2022.
- The CHES® exam content will change to the new Areas of Responsibility in October of 2022.
How do I know what study guide to purchase for the exam?
- If you are taking the CHES® exam in October 2021 or April 2022, you can utilize the 2015 version of the available study guide: The Companion Guide for Health Education Specialists, 7th edition. It is also highly recommended that you utilize your classroom textbooks from your degree program, and supplement with material found here. You can also join study groups online – many form on social media platforms and connect via Zoom. Purchasing study material is NOT required, but many find the full length practice exam in the study guide useful during preparation for the exam. Read more on how to study for the CHES® exam.
- If you plan to take the CHES® exam in October of 2022, you will need the newer addition of the study guide: The Companion Guide for Health Education Specialists, 8th edition.
- If you are taking the MCHES® exam in October of 2021, you can utilize the 2015 version of the available study guide: The Companion Guide for Health Education Specialists, 7th edition.
- If you are planning to take the MCHES® exam in April of 2022, you will need the newer addition of the study guide: The Companion Guide for Health Education Specialists, 8th edition.
Are there advanced-level Competencies on the CHES® exam?
In short, the answer is no. The CHES® exam is constructed to measure the knowledge base of an entry-level practitioner in the early stages of his or her career. The study guide clearly delineates which of these Competencies are considered entry-level and will form the multiple-choice questions on the CHES® exam.
The MCHES® exam, on the other hand, is constructed to measure the knowledge base of a practitioner who has gained valuable experience in the field, and contains both the entry- and advanced-level Competencies found in the study guide. It includes such material as staff development and training, planning budgets and strategic planning. The MCHES® exam is also in multiple choice format.
Why is changing the CHES® and MCHES® exam content necessary?
Practice analyses are is undertaken about every five years by NCHEC and SOPHE to identify changes in health education practice, and to inform professional preparation and continuing education programs of these changes. NCHEC’s mission is to uphold the highest quality standards in the certification of Health Education Specialists, and this means that exam content must reflect what specialists are truly practicing in their varied jobs across the country. It’s a complex process, but it has been the basis of NCHEC’s quality, accredited certification program since 1989, built with a solid foundation and a core belief in continuous improvement of the profession.