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Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series of blog posts written by Human Health students in the Health 1,2,3,4 program’s Health 497 course – Community Health Education Strategies. To see an overview of the program and this series, please read this post.
By Alexis Ziller
In one week, I will graduate from Emory University with my Bachelor of Arts in Human Health. It is hard to believe that my undergraduate career is so quickly coming to an end, but I am grateful as my education has been rich. Over the past four years, I have learned about the dynamism of health on an individual – and population – level, and through the Health 1, 2, 3, 4 program, I have been able to apply my knowledge to real life initiatives promoting positive health behaviors among members of the Emory community. At an institution with high rates of civic engagement, human health faculty, students and those working in partnership have built a culture of health on- and off-campus; in this blog, I reflect on my most meaningful experiences and role in contributing to this culture.
A core principle of human health is the idea that health is not merely the absence of disease. Rather, health is a dynamic state of physical, emotional, mental, social, and spiritual well-being. I learned this in Predictive Health, a course emphasizing the need to glimpse into the future and take preventative actions in the present to reduce harms to health, such as risks for chronic disease. Oftentimes, these preventative actions include modifying individual health behaviors. Understanding the importance of predictive health and preventive measures, Emory has built a culture of health amongst both students and employees by investing in health education through the Health 1, 2, 3, 4 program under the Center for the Study of Human Health, of which I have had the pleasure of participating in.
The Health 1, 2, 3, 4 program has successfully engaged the vast majority of Emory students at some point during their undergraduate experience, starting with Health 100. Health 100 is a general health education requirement all students must take during their first year at Emory that teaches the science of health and well-being, so that students may make informed decisions about their health and develop and maintain healthy behaviors. Health 100 is partly led by Peer Health Partners (PHPs) who are enrolled in Health 300 after completing Health 200 (the training course that prepares students to be leaders and effectively apply science-based evidence to the lived college experience). I felt fortunate to take the HLTH 100 introductory course because it truly equips students with the information and tools to better their health throughout college. This is a large part of why I decided to continue on in the Health 1,2,3,4 courses and become a PHP. Being a PHP was a rewarding experience as I was able to more closely support the health of my peers and develop my interpersonal, teaching, and public speaking abilities.
Having enjoyed serving as a PHP and developing a greater interest in health education, I continued to the final level of the Health 1, 2, 3, 4 program by enrolling in Health 497 – Community Health Education Strategies. In the fall semester, I chose to pursue the Healthy Emory’s Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) path and thus became a student health coach. In this course, I expanded upon my PHP skillset as I learned more about behavioral change and the role of health coaching in encouraging positive health behaviors. I then had the opportunity to develop a supplemental group coaching session for Emory employees who were current and former participants of the DPP. As DPP participants either have prediabetes or are at risk for type 2 diabetes, these coaching sessions provided additional support and resources to those actively working to maintain good health and reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes. My session was on the practice of Positive Self-Talk, which aimed to strengthen mental health by way of increasing one’s self-resources. Participants who attended my session shared that they were satisfied with the material, likely to apply what they learned post-session, and likely to recommend the session to others. I found my experience as a student health coach to be very fulfilling even as I navigated the conversational challenges and time constraints of coaching for the first time. Based on my session feedback, I definitely feel like I was able to contribute to the culture of health at Emory, especially in the area of mental health as it tends to be one of the more neglected areas of health. My experience was one in a million, and it has motivated me to continue to take on health-promoting roles in my post-undergrad career. So, thank you, Emory, for creating a culture of health and providing leadership opportunities for students like myself to learn and make a difference!