A Health Education Specialist should possess the following characteristics (a) health literacy, (b) enthusiasm, (c) justice, and (d) determination. Knowing that I possess these qualities, I thought I could better serve my community, especially individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD), if I became certified as a health educator.
Individuals with IDD receive disproportionately lower standards of care than individuals without IDD. This population requires a tailored approach to health education that focuses on prevalent/preventable health issues, which includes diabetes, heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure etc. Reaching them requires very specific and personalized health messages, advices, and resources about health and well-being. Educating them requires patience, finesse, and mastery of the health competencies. Parenthetically, health educators who teach this population have to tailor the standard health competencies/messages to the level of cognition and functionality of these individuals.
I decided to earn a CHES because I wanted to become well-versed in the field; I wanted to fully delve into the seven areas of responsibilities in order to perform optimally as an educator for the IDD/general population. The certification shows that professionals have gone beyond their required health degrees to learn the crux of what makes a health educator efficient and resourceful. The certification shows discipline and passion for the occupation.
The certification benefits me personally and professionally. I have learned and performed all of these duties:
- Assessed needs of a community of individuals with IDD
- Planned and developed various health education programs for the IDD population
- Implemented various health and educational programs that have gained national attention
- Collaborated with several major universities to conduct evaluation and research related to health programs
- Currently administer and manage a community health program for persons with IDD
- Proudly serve as a health education resource person for the community and mentees/interns
- Communicate and advocate for health and health education in the IDD/general population at all levels, i.e., interpersonally, community-wise, institution-wise, and politically
As a result of this certification the public, more specially, individuals with IDD have gained several programs tailored to their specific needs. I also help promote all other evidence-based interventions centered to the IDD population because there’s a lack thereof. Moreover, my employers hired me because of my certification, and as a hiring manager, when it comes down to two (2) qualified applicants; I hire those with CHES credentials for health related positions.
The organization that I currently work with have become a Multiple Event Provider (MEP) for NCHEC providing CEUs for CHES members who participate in their educational conferences; the events provided by our organization serves a great purpose for preparing health educators about teaching and serving the IDD population. As result of having over three (3) CHES members in the organization, my employers are confident that we are all well-informed in the realm of health education and that we will serve our consumers in the most efficient and appropriate manner. Similarly, many colleagues and interns have been inspired to become certified health educators. I’m quite proud to be part of the CHES community. I endeavor to help spread the word about its importance and to help make our current membership grow exponentially.
My advice for those who are thinking about becoming a CHES or MCHES is to go for it wholeheartedly. I’m delighted to be a CHES member; it comes with a certain gratification for those who love to teach health education. Again, I can say that I owe my current job the fact that I have a CHES, and I encourage employers to hire CHES members for positions that entail health education. I also encourage qualified health educators to get certified! Our field is as strong as we make it.
The Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) brochure can be found here: