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Q&A: Saint Leo’s New BS in Health Education and Health Promotion Program

Would you like to work in health education rather than on the actual medical side of the health professions field? Check out this Q&A with Dr. Kathy Van Eerden on Saint Leo University’s Bachelor of Science in Health Education and Health Promotion, which will initially be offered in the fall of 2020 as the first-ever health education degree at the university.

In the fall of 2020, Saint Leo University is excited to unveil a new degree program within the ever-growing health professions discipline. This is a first for the university in its 131-year history.

This new undergraduate degree program is the Bachelor of Science in Health Education and Health Promotion. The health education program helps prepare students for careers in a wide range of health education and promotion roles.

We recently caught up with Dr. Kathy Van Eerden, associate dean of the College of Health Professions at Saint Leo University, to learn more about this new health education degree program.

Q: What is your educational and professional background?

A: I have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a Master of Science in Nursing from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. I earned my PhD in Leadership, Learning, and Service in Higher Education from Cardinal Stritch University.

In addition to my career in academia, I’m a registered nurse with experience in medical and surgical nursing, population health, school health, and home care.

Q: How did you wind up coming to Saint Leo University to help start its new College of Health Professions?

A: I have spent much of my career in nursing education as an educator and associate dean. I was a previous associate dean of Nursing and Health Sciences where I oversaw the respiratory therapy and the bachelor’s and master’s degree nursing programs. I also helped launch a new bachelor’s in health education degree program and was closely involved in framing the broad curriculum for that new program.

Q: How would you define the term health education?

A: Health education involves the application of teaching and learning strategies to help improve the health and wellness of people within a particular community. In health education, work is done across a wide range of populations and within a variety of settings.

It’s important to realize that health education involves the concept of educating others about health and disease prevention.

Q: Why did Saint Leo University decide to launch this health education degree program?

A: While Saint Leo University has a long history across many disciplines, health professions had never been formally pursued.

Given the demand for health professions and projections for the future, Saint Leo wanted to meet the call. Health professions align well with our core values and mission.

In addition, there is a strong interest in health professions within the community. This field is also in the spotlight with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic challenges.

Q: What types of students is this degree program geared toward?

A: We are looking for students who are interested in and have a deep passion for health and wellness but may not have a desire to work as a clinician in healthcare. The students have a preference for teaching and education related to health promotion.

Q: How is this program delivered and what is the availability of the faculty?

A: This health education degree program is launching in the fall of 2020. It will be offered on ground at University Campus. However, we do plan to offer an online version of this program in the future.

Thanks to our low student-instructor ratio, our faculty are available to work closely with students.

Q: What topics are covered in the coursework?

A: The coursework covers a broad range of topics across the health education and health promotion spectrum. Some course areas of focus include:

  • Nutrition
  • Wellness and health promotion
  • Physical, mental, and emotional health
  • Population-focused health and wellness
  • Teaching, learning, and assessment strategies
  • Worksite wellness
  • Health literacy
  • Use of technology in health education

 

I should also mention that the first four semesters of the program emphasize arts and sciences. This give students a broad knowledge base of topics essential to the health professions and prepares them for success in the core courses on health education and health promotion.

Q: What is the certification option available in this program?

A: There is a voluntary national certification which graduates of this program may pursue. Graduates who successfully pass the national exam become Certified Health Education Specialists (CHES). Employers and hiring agencies may see this certification as a desirable credential.

Our program aligns with the national standards for health educators, so we are confident that students will be prepared for the exam should they choose to pursue it.

Information about the Certified Health Education Specialist exam is located here.

Q: Who are the faculty teaching in this program?

A: A cadre of faculty will be teaching in the program. These include education and social work faculty from our College of Education and Social Services.

This program is a true collaboration and interdisciplinary effort as we are leveraging the strengths of our faculty.

Q: What makes this health education degree program unique?

A: This program is unique in its focus on teaching, learning, and assessment. In addition to the emphasis on health promotion, We have faculty who are experts in education and wellness and they provided significant input into the development of the curriculum. We have a strong emphasis on the education-based coursework in terms of preparing students for a wide range of teaching opportunities. We also focus on brain-based learning, working with a diverse group of learners, and best practices in teaching, learning, and assessment.

Q: What are some specific career opportunities one would qualify to attain with this health education degree?

A: The settings for this career field include:

  • Health education and promotion roles within hospitals, clinics, and other medical facilities
  • Health education and promotion roles within government agencies (i.e., Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, etc.)
  • Education, communications, or PR roles within local community agencies in the public health space
  • Education, communications, or PR roles within local, state, or national nonprofit organizations (i.e. American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, etc.)
  • Workplace wellness coordinator

Q: What does the current and future job market look like for health education?

A: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), health education is considered a “bright outlook occupation.” It’s projected to grow 16 percent from 2016 to 2026, which is significantly faster than many other occupations. A big part of this growth will be driven by new technology and evolving healthcare services.

The BLS also states that the latest figure on median annual wage for this field is $55,220. The lower 10 percent of this group in terms of income earned less than $32,890 annually, while the higher-tiered 10 percent earned at least $98,680.

Q: What are some examples of graduate degree programs one could pursue with this degree?

A: There are several graduate degree programs a student who earns this bachelor’s in health education degree could pursue. One is a Master of Public Health. An MBA in a health-related specialization could also be an option.

Of course, graduates could pursue a physician’s assistant program or a range of other healthcare programs as well.

Q: How can prospective students learn more about this BS in Health Education and Health Promotion degree program?

A: Feel free to contact me, Dr. Kathy Van Eerden, at Kathleen.vaneerden@saintleo.edu. The program page also has additional information.

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