Public Health & Community Health Education program

Undergrad major

Do you want to help build healthier communities?

With a career in public health, you can help make communities a better place to live while addressing major health issues affecting society from infectious disease to depression.

UWL's program prepares students to become the leaders and educators in their communities who work to improve health and reduce preventable illness, disability and premature death.

UWL is the only school in the UW System with a Public Health and Community Health Education undergraduate program that is nationally accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH). It is also the first undergraduate program in the nation to become accredited.

Public health jobs

Public Health & Community Health Education is a broad field that allows students to explore a variety of career paths and use a range of skills. Many graduates become health education specialists or find related professions. They might craft and disseminate credible health information to consumers; develop and market wellness programs for schools, worksites, and communities; promote voluntary health behavior change; write grants; participate in advocacy efforts at local, state, and national levels; and promote health equity and social justice among populations.

Entry-level public health jobs

  • Health education specialist
  • Communicable disease consultant
  • Community health educator
  • Education program manager/programmer
  • Community organizer
  • Health promotion educator
  • Prevention specialist
  • Public health educator/worker
  • Public health inspector
  • Worksite health promotion
  • Family services specialist
  • Alcohol and other drug abuse educator
  • Diabetes educator
  • Health and wellness coach
  • Wellness consultant
  • Grant writer
  • Biometric screener
  • Health policy and legislative assistant

Further education

Graduate study options include public health, epidemiology, healthcare administration, public health policy, maternal and child health, global health, environmental health, social work, counseling, physician assistant, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and nursing. 

Long-term career development

  • Community health agency administrator
  • Program director
  • College or university instructor (with a master’s or doctoral degree)
  • Master community health education specialist
  • Public health nurse (with a nursing degree)
  • Researcher
  • Epidemiologist

What distinguishes UWL's Public Health and Community Health Education program?

Nationally-accredited program

The Bachelor of Science in Public Health program at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse is currently accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) as a standalone baccalaureate program (SBP). UWL is the only institution in the UW System with a Public Health and Community Health Education undergraduate program that has been nationally accredited by CEPH. UWL's program was the first undergraduate program in the country to become accredited in 2007.

Eligibility to sit for certification exam

Program graduates are eligible to sit for the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) exam through the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC). The exam is a competency-based tool used to measure acquisition, application, and interpretation of knowledge in the Eight Areas of Responsibility for Health Education Specialists.

High certification exam pass rate

Graduates of the UWL PH-CHE program consistently have high pass rates on the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) exam, exceeding the national average.

Career preparation in the field

Students gain hands-on experience through a 15- week, 560-hour preceptorship at an agency designed to serve as a student’s transition from the university curriculum to the profession. Agencies may include government health departments, voluntary health organizations, hospitals, clinics, worksite health organizations, and others.

Hands-on experiences

Students are encouraged to gain experiences outside the classroom to build their skill set and collaborate with faculty and community partners. These experiences may include: grant writing for organizations, attending advocacy summits, studying abroad, conducting undergraduate research, presenting or attending conferences, or volunteering to lead or serve in a health education professional organization.

Positive job outlook

Employment of Health Education Specialists is projected to grow by 11% from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. Growth will be driven by efforts to improve health outcomes and to reduce healthcare costs by teaching people healthy behaviors and explaining how to use available healthcare services.

The potential to change lives

Major health issues affecting society can be addressed through Health Education and Health Promotion. These issues include infectious diseases such as COVID-19; chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, cancer; social justice issues and health equity; environmental issues and climate change; and personal health issues, such as stress, depression, addiction, and the effects of peer pressure.

Students gain a broad perspective

UWL's health education curriculum is designed to include experiences from a variety of related disciplines such as psychology, sociology, education and medicine. As such, students understand the many forces that influence human health and understand how to create solutions that offer the greatest impact. Students also develop capacity to work on interdisciplinary teams in their future career.

Explore the social determinants of health

The PH-CHE program includes a broad perspective of current social issues as they affect factors contributing to personal and community health. Meeting the health needs of a given population requires an understanding of the social dynamics taking place at the community level. Social determinants of health include healthcare and education access and quality, economic stability, social and community contexts, neighborhoods, and the built environment.

Sample courses

PH 335 Environmental Health This course will examine the interdisciplinary and global impacts of human-environment relationships. Emphasis is placed on the critical nature of our understanding these relationships in order to improve ecosystem health, human health and well-being, global economics and sustainability. Politics, economics, science, technology, human behavior (both individual and collective), history, ethics, and the media are examined for the purpose of improving the quality of life for all people through the creation of a sustainable global society. The science, methods and processes of environmental health will be considered. The role of environmental health in public and population health will be examined. Prerequisite: admission to the public health and community health education major or an environmental studies minor. Offered Fall, Spring.

CHE 360 Methods and Strategies for Health Education The purpose of this course is to help participants develop skills and strategies in relation to facilitation, instruction, as well as the use of theoretical concepts to more effectively implement health education and health promotion programs. Course participants will gain an understanding of the various ways in which people learn and develop a variety of skills to create effective learning strategies. Participants will also comprehend the fundamentals of social marketing as well as health literacy and how these concepts should be used to create more effective health education and health promotion programs. Additionally, participants will learn how to use health behavior theories and models to create culturally appropriate health education materials. Prerequisite: admission to the public health and community health education major. Offered Fall, Spring.

PH 340 Epidemiology and Human Disease Prevention This course provides an introduction to epidemiology as a basic science for public health. It will address the principles of the quantitative approach to public health. The course will introduce measures of frequency and association, introduce the design and validity of epidemiologic research, and give an overview of appropriate data analysis for understand population health. An introduction to the skills needed by public health professionals to interpret critically the epidemiologic literature. The influence of epidemiology on legal and ethical issues will be presented. Prerequisite: admission to the public health and community health education, school health education major, or healthcare analytics management minor. Offered Fall, Spring.

CHE 370 Motivational Interviewing for Health Educators This course introduces participants to principles, concepts, and spirit of Motivational Interviewing (MI), which is an evidenced-based method, grounded in theory meant to facilitate behavior change. Participants will learn the process of exploring and resolving the ambivalence that often creates barriers to change in various populations. Participants will also learn how to properly share information, give advice, and plan for action using the spirit and methods of MI. Additionally, participants will also gain an understanding of how to interpret and apply a behavioral screening or diagnostic questionnaire as they relate to the referral individuals for MI with various health concerns that need to be addressed. Prerequisite: admission to the public health and community health education major. Offered Fall, Spring.

CHE 400 Health Policy, Advocacy, and Community Organizations This course focuses on the process of engaging communities in health education and behavior change programs of various kinds. Several organizing paradigms for fostering healthy communities are examined, and their practical and ethical implications are considered. Skill development for community assessment, constituency-building, and leadership of participatory planning efforts is emphasized. Students are paired with health and human services, health policy and social justice agencies, and coalitions to gain an in-depth knowledge of agenda setting, legislative research, and legislative advocacy in relation to specific legislation being proposed in the Wisconsin state legislature. Course will tie policy theory to real-world practice. This course is taught largely at an undergraduate level. Graduate students will have additional course requirements/expectations. Prerequisite: PH 335; PH 340; CHE 360; CHE 370; junior standing. Offered Fall, Spring.

CHE 480 Senior Capstone This course is designed as a culminating course that will engage participants in applying the skills and concepts they have developed throughout the program curriculum. In particular, students will apply the profession's areas of responsibility as well as ethical standards in various activities, discussions, and projects. In addition, participants will 1) review selected community health topics in our Public Health and Community Health Education program, 2) be introduced to current issues in community health education, public health and population health, 3) be introduced to the employment, educational, and political dynamics in selected occupational settings, and 4) assess and discuss their specific pre-professional needs at this point in time. Prerequisite: CHE 350 or CHE 380; CHE 400. Offered Fall, Spring.