Representatives from the Korea Health Promotion Institute in Seoul, South Korea, spent the third week of August 2018 on the East Coast in search of guidance regarding the certification of Health Education Specialists. Hyunim Bae, MPH, from the Institute’s Department of Community Health, reached out to NCHEC staff earlier this spring and suggested the visit in an effort to learn more about our organization’s long-standing national Health Education Specialist certifications known as CHES® and MCHES®.
“The driving goal of their visit was to study NCHEC’s history and processes for creating a high-quality and marketable certification,” said Melissa Opp, Deputy Executive Director of NCHEC, “as well as methods to augment the future of the Health Education and Promotion profession in the Republic of Korea. We were quite happy to host Ms. Bae and her colleague Ms. Parks, and to arrange a series of site visits that could provide some insight as to what our Certified Health Education Specialists do in the states, especially in the arena of worksite wellness.”
The visit began in New York City with Nigel Thomas, Assistant Director of 1199SEIU Funds, an organization committed to caring for the healthcare workers who care for others through programs and services that invest in this workforce to improve patient care and the healthcare industry. Mr. Thomas is a Master Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES®) who currently serves as a Director on NCHEC’s Division Board for Professional Development. “It was a wonderful opportunity for me to learn about the challenges of health education specialists in South Korea,” said Thomas. “Some of the challenges are unique; some we share here in the United Stat
Day two of the journey brought the representatives to NCHEC headquarters, located in Whitehall, PA, where they met with NCHEC staff members, and delved into the history of the CHES® and MCHES® certifications. Of particular interest was the rigorous eligibility process for CHES® and MCHES® candidates, as well as the national NCCA and international IAS/17024 accreditation standards that provide the backbone to the validity and consistency of these certifications. In the Republic of Korea, there is a current increased focus on expanding the role of the health education specialist into new jobs and career sectors created by the Ministry of Health and Welfare. According to Ms. Bae, “the main concerns we now face are to make our health education professional certification a national gold standard and to enhance the application of certification in the workplace.”
On day three, NCHEC staff accompanied Ms. Bae and Ms. Parks to an onsite meeting in Allentown, Pennsylvania, with Populytics/BeneFIT Corporate WellnessSM, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lehigh Valley Health Network that provides wellness programming ranging from individualized health coaching, health fairs and screenings, to specialty services. The goal of this visit was to learn more about the function of Certified Health Education Specialists in our nation’s worksite wellness career sector. Over the past decade, corporate wellness initiatives have gained traction in the US as a standard part of company culture, and organizations like Populytics/BeneFIT have succeeded in incorporating the skillsets of CHES® and MCHES® into their workforce. In fact, they now require the CHES® or the MCHES® certification as part of their hiring process.
“The value of a Certified Health Education Specialist is in their unique training,” said Kristin Behler, MPH, MCHES®, Director of Health Promotion and Wellness for Populytics. “They bring a distinct skillset to the table, including a broad perspective on public and community health. This type of specialist training is not often found in a clinical background.” Of the four CHES® and MCHES® present at the Populytics meeting, all have moved into leadership or managerial roles within the organization. The company was recognized by NCHEC with an Outstanding Service and Leadership Award in 2017 for its core foundational focus on continuing professional development, and the continued advancement of its staff members who hold the CHES® or MCHES® certifications.
The tour wrapped up Thursday afternoon, when Ms. Bae and Ms. Parks headed back to New York City for some sight-seeing opportunities before their return flight to Seoul. NCHEC is working toward submitting an abstract for a joint-poster presentation with the Korea Health Promotion Institute at the International Union for Health Education and Promotion (IUHPE) 23rd world conference in New Zealand in April 2019. The theme of this conference is to provide an unparalleled opportunity to link and demonstrate the contribution of health promotion to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to acknowledge the way SDGs contribute to improvements in health and wellbeing.