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Meet Your Team: The Health Educator

Health education can be a broad term. Many of my clients would say that I’m a health educator because of the information we discuss, but in this context, we’re talking about the person shapes the minds of our future health workforce.

The professor.

As students, we don’t think much about the faculty outside of the classroom. In high school, I always felt odd seeing a teacher at the grocery store – shocking to learn that they had lives outside of those brick walls.

College faculty are these unique gems. They teach in a classroom, but they often participate or lead research and continue to work in “the field”. Not all programs require these of their faculty, and I’ve experienced faculty who are out of touch with industry, but I believe that keeping a hand in the real world and one in the classroom is one of the best ways to stay updated on industry standards regardless of the industry you’re in.

Meet Jo, the Professor, the consultant, the public health champion

Jo, the health educator

Occupation/Title:

  • Associate Professor, Kinesiology Dept, California State University, Monterey Bay
  • Certified Mental Performance Consultant, Association for Applied Sport Psychology
  • Physical Activity in Public Health Specialist, American College of Sports Medicine

Specialty (if applicable):

  • Health Promotion and Health Education
  • Sport and Exercise Psychology
  • Wellness

State(s) that you practice in: CA, AZ, and remotely

State(s) that you have licensure in: Credentials allow me to practice anywhere

Years of practice:

  • 7 years of teaching as a professor
  • 6 years consulting as a sport and exercise psychology consultant
  • 6 years as a physical activity in public health specialist

Education needed/obtained for current occupation/title:

  • Professor: Bachelors (Psychology), Masters (Sport and Exercise Psychology), and PhD (Health & Human Physiology)
  • CMPC: Masters or PhD in sport psychology; 400 hours of mentored experience; complete pre-requisite coursework, certification exam
  • PAPHS: Bachelor’s degree in a health-related field from an accredited university, certification exam

CEU needed to maintain licensure:

  • CMPC: 75 hours over 5 years
  • PAPHS: 45 hours over 3 years

In your role, what is your scope of practice?

  • Professor: Teach and research in the areas of health education/promotion/behavior change, sport/exercise psychology, sport sociology
  • CMPC: Teach mental skills necessary to perform consistently in training and competition, increase adherence to exercise programs, and to help individuals realize their potential.
  • PAPHS: promotes physical activity in all public health sectors to create equitable opportunities for all individuals to benefit from physical activity. Engage/educate stakeholders about the need for and impact of physical activity. 

What limitations do you face in your role?

  • My full time job is as an associate professor so my time and energy is devoted to those obligations.  That is my career and it’s what pays the bills so it is the priority. Thus, I have very little time to do the sport and exercise psychology consulting or the behavior change coaching. I consider my coaching and consulting to be my side hustles. I carry a small client load that I work with remotely, in the evenings or weekends. I am passionate about consulting and coaching, but it is not how I prioritize my time due to my full time job and coaching/consulting doesn’t provide a career for me, just a side hustle. 
  • Buy-in from potential clients

What other health professionals do you or do you want to partner with? Registered Dietitians (RDs), Athletic Trainers, Coaches, Counselors, Psychologists, Strength & Conditioning Specialists, Personal Trainers

What is a misconception about your occupation/title?

  • Professor: Since I am tenured as a professor, that I don’t have to try hard/work that hard
  • CMPC: Quick fix as a sport/exercise psychology consultant
  • PAPHS: Physical activity  = exercise only

Other issues that you see as a health professional: People on social media just spew health information left and right, but don’t have the proper education. [They] simply Google it or experience it themselves, and think it is ok to share that with others without taking caution to how that influences what other people do. [Some] people say they don’t have the time to get certified and yet they found the time to create a fitness program for followers to buy. [The] lack of certification can equal lack of ethics guiding their practice, which disregards the First Do No Harm principle.

What should other health professionals know about your occupation/title? I don’t think other professionals are well versed in behavior change and health promotion tools. They know that people need to engage in healthy behaviors, but lack the skill set or education to help others adhere to and maintain healthy behaviors. They can answer the ‘why’ people should exercise, eat well, sleep, but lack the application of action based strategies to help their clients make these changes. This is where trainers, coaches, RDs, doctors, etc. can consult with me. I can provide the action-based strategies/health promotion tools to the client in helping them reach their goals. 

What should the general public know about the work you do? Exercise and physical activity are medicine! Movement [in general] is medicine Stress management is necessary for optimal health.

There is a lot of information available so I think many are overwhelmed by the amount of info that is available and don’t know where to start. There is also a lot of garbage information being spread by unqualified people. Anyone can start spewing stuff on a health podcast, write a blog, etc. The credibility of this info is not policies. I think most folks would benefit from focusing on the big rocks: sleep, stress management, eating well and moving more. Behaviors associated with these big rocks take time to change but I think most folks are not patient, they want a quick fix. I also think being healthy and being fit/physically conditioned are being confused or have come to mean the same thing. Fitness/physical conditioning requires a whole different kind of commitment and recommendations than being healthy does. So I think there is lots of work to be done to separate the two. The definition of health that I use is that health is a resource for every day living. Fitness may play a role in that for some folks but I think many in general population simply could focus on what is it about their dimensions of health that they need to be productive and function optimally on a day to day basis.

What lead you to do the work you do? I’m a helping person so found myself in a career where I can help others. [I was also] pulled by my passion for health and fitness.

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