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What factors contribute to successful public health programs at community colleges?

March 18, 2016

Community colleges have become essential in the training of frontline health care professionals, yet little research studies their growth. A new study examines surveys of community college leaders and finds that community colleges must create close connections with community partners in order to provide successful training and employment opportunities for their public health students. This research was recently published in Pedagogy in Health Promotion: The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, a Society of Public Health Education journal published in partnership with SAGE Publishing.

“Although a minority of community colleges currently offer health navigator training options, the number of programs is growing,” wrote study author Katherine J. Johnson. “For colleges that may wish to develop future programming in this area, factors such as hiring staff who bring strong professional connections with the health navigator professions, drawing on existing college relationships with community partners in related fields, involving community actors in all stages of program development, and participating actively in state and local workforce alliances for the health navigator professions, are among the considerations that may lead to building successful programs."

Examining surveys completed by 236 community college leaders across 42 states, only 30 reported offering health navigator-type programs; however, half of these programs had been developed within the previous year. Among these respondents:

  • 75% preferred integrated programs that trained students across all public health professions instead of programs that focused on specific professions.
  • 68% preferred associate degree programs that led to direct employment and 57% preferred associate degree programs for transfer to four-year programs.
  • 62% preferred that public health programs include online or distance learning.
  • 59% were not interested in offering a public health program that did not give students academic credit.
  • 73% reported that their colleges offered training in five or more of the following seven health-related professions: Nursing, Nurse’s aide, EMT/paramedic, Medical assistant, Health information management, Respiratory therapist, and Community health worker and/or patient/health care type professions.

Johnson continued, “As community colleges become more fully integrated into the continuum of public health education, it is hoped that health navigator training programs can provide opportunities for students to begin their academic and professional journey, fill local workforce needs, and help to address enduring health disparities through their work as in the community.”

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Find out more by reading the full article, “Health Professions Education: A National Survey of Community College Leaders,” by Katherine J. Johnson, in Pedagogy in Health Promotion.

This article is part of the March 2016 supplement titled “The Role of U.S. Community Colleges in Building the Public Health Workforce,” guest edited by Drs. Richard Riegelman and Cynthia Wilson. The supplement includes articles on the role of transfer programs in health education, health administration, and environmental health as well as Health Navigation education programs. The entire issue is open access and can be downloaded throughout the month of March here.

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Sara Miller McCune founded SAGE Publishing in 1965 to support the dissemination of usable knowledge and educate a global community. SAGE is a leading international provider of innovative, high-quality content publishing more than 900 journals and over 800 new books each year, spanning a wide range of subject areas. Our growing selection of library products includes archives, data, case studies and video. SAGE remains majority owned by our founder and after her lifetime will become owned by a charitable trust that secures the company’s continued independence. Principal offices are located in Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore, Washington DC and Melbourne.

Pedagogy in Health Promotion: The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (PHP) advances pedagogy through contributions in areas such as curriculum and course/program design, assessment, and administration relevant to teaching and learning. The content of the journal is especially relevant to instructors or trainers who provide continuing professional education, in the broad arena of health promotion and disease prevention. The quarterly journal welcomes works addressing the art and science of teaching and learning, and how it contributes to the formation and ongoing development of the health promotion professional working in any site and with a range of populations.


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