CHES® Career Profile: Environmental Health Educator
Environmental Health Educators like Wendy Wright, B.S., CHES® serve the public in a number of ways. We’ve encountered many who have chosen to pursue CHES® certification due the invaluable experience gained in the areas of program management, research, communication, and more. We sat down with Wendy to learn more about how certification has impacted her career.
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Tell us about your career as a health education specialist.
I'm an Environmental Health Educator with the Utah County Health Department. I love teaching and I love health! When the opportunity came up to work one-on-one in these programs, I was excited to use my education and talents in the position.
What does your job as an environmental health educator entail?
In our state, 1 in 3 homes have radon levels that are higher than EPA recommendations, which puts many residents at an elevated risk of lung cancer. In our radon program, I provide education regarding radon, risks, testing, and mitigation. Often, I will visit homes to provide radon level testing for concerned homeowners. Helping raise awareness of the health risks of radon, as well as sharing solutions regarding home radon levels, has been a very enjoyable experience.
Does your role involve working with any public health programs?
For the past several years, our county has provided a Household Hazardous Waste Collection Day, where residents can come to a drive-through style event to dispose of items they can’t toss in the trash, including chemicals, paint, bulbs, batteries, oil, antifreeze, among many other items. Throughout the year, I work on organizing the event with other stakeholders, and coordinate efforts of up to 200 local college students who help with off-loading and sorting. There is great positivity in working with partners, residents, students, and professors who are interested in responsibly disposing of these materials.
How has COVID-19 impacted your role as a public health educator?
One of the aspects I love about my job is that there is always something new and different happening, and our various departments always work together to provide solutions. I would use the word “drastic” to describe how COVID-19 has changed my work!
How is your community adjusting to COVID-19?
As health concerns gradually turned into a health crisis, we spent a lot of time discussing changes, preparing for adjustments, and eventually cancelling events or changing the way we run programs. Our large Household Hazardous Collection Day event was cancelled, which freed up some time, but also created a need to get information about waste disposal to our residents. We are learning how to adjust our Asthma Home Visiting Program to virtual visits, with a bit of a learning curve, since we were not set up to do that previously. I’d say this is a positive development which will enable us to serve more residents living in rural areas, even after the current health crisis.
How do you predict COVID-19 will affect your role as a public health educator now and in the future?
I am currently no longer able to test homes for radon myself, but I am still educating people on radon and the importance of home test kits they can use themselves. Additionally, it has been a privilege to assist our health department with our COVID-19 help line, a phone number residents have called to get screened for symptoms, or seek direction for other concerns, ranging from when they should self-quarantine, to where to find help with COVID-19 related unemployment benefits, to information for home-made face masks. I will also be assisting our epidemiology team with some disease tracking when that is needed. It has been very interesting!
READ MORE: The Value of Health Education Credentialing
CHES® Certification for Public Health Educators
Are you interested in becoming a public health educator? Consider CHES® certification. Certified Health Education Specialists (CHES®) are skilled in a variety of components of public and private health education responsibilities. Becoming a CHES® or MCHES® greatly increases your chances of finding employment in both public and private sectors. To learn more about the advantages of CHES® certification, click here.
How to Become a Health Education Specialist