By: Katie Brousseau
Editor’s Note: This piece is the second of four student essays about their experiences participating in Health 1,2,3’s classroom to community 4th level component. See here to learn more about this new program.
As a senior studying human health at Emory, I have spent countless hours studying the impacts of individual behaviors on personal health outcomes. From stress to physical activity to sleep to nutrition, I could discuss at length the research surrounding health behaviors and their implications for human health. The information gleaned from scientific journals, where study participants are carefully chosen and confounders are controlled for, does not always translate directly into real-life practice.
I therefore welcome any chance to apply classroom discussion and knowledge to different contexts in order to prepare myself for future work as a public health professional. Conducting weekly seminars for incoming freshmen as a Peer Health Partner (PHP) in the Health 1,2,3 Program was one of the ways in which I chose to do so. Being a PHP was also one of the most interesting parts of my academic career. When I heard that the Health 1,2,3 program was piloting a 4th level that would involve engaging with Emory faculty and staff to promote healthy behaviors, I was excited by the opportunity to expand upon the skills that I developed as a PHP and apply them to a new population context.
During my time as a student health partner with Healthy Emory, I became more competent in areas such as motivational interviewing, goal-setting, and applying evidence-based practices. I practiced communicating with diverse groups of people, using active listening, affirmation, and open questions in order to align their needs and values with a health-promoting goal that would work for their lives. Each coaching session presented a fresh set of challenges that required me to strategically guide conversations towards setting realistic health goals customized to each individual’s health status, life circumstances, and personality traits.
For some clients, my role was as simple as identifying the Emory resources that align with their existing goals and could make healthier behaviors easier to incorporate. For others, sessions focused more on motivation and bolstering the client’s self-efficacy in order to show the individual that healthy changes are possible and could benefit their life. No matter the individual, every session involved listening attentively to the needs of the client in order to respond appropriately, translating scientific research to feasible goals that could be incorporated into their lives.
As I move forward with a career in public health, I see myself using the skills that I nurtured as a student health partner with Health 1,2,3 and Healthy Emory in a variety of ways. Already, I have been able to highlight my experience as a student health partner during numerous job interviews as an example of converging with others around a common goal and implementing research-based strategies in real-life situations. Being a student health partner was a unique opportunity that allowed me to engage with my coursework, translating it to meet the needs of a diverse group of people.
To learn more about the Health 1,2,3 program or how to get involved with the 4th level experience, e-mail Health 1,2,3 Program Director, Lisa DuPree at firstname.lastname@example.org