Spotlight on STEM: health promotion and health equity
Interested in the medical field but not sure about medical school, or not keen on taking a lot of physics and math? You should consider specializing in health promotion and health equity. HPHE student Jordan Gao gave us the details of this fascinating area of study.
To an outsider, HPHE may not look any different from the wide range of other medical-minded majors, but Gao explained what sets them apart.
“I feel like a lot of medical majors focus a lot more on research… HPHE covers that, but it stands out because it’s focused on raising awareness, on day-to-day ways people can improve their well-being. It’s very convenient,” she said.
Students who earn an HPHE degree can enter the field immediately, without the need for a lengthy medical school study followed by residency. This major sits within the Kinesiology department of the School of Education, a placement that ties directly to its goals. Kinesiology, as a department, focuses on health education.
“We don’t focus so much on science and research as much as on education – teaching the general public about the resources available,” Gao said. “Academia and research can be difficult to break into, it’s inaccessible.”
HPHE majors can choose a variety of elective majors. Gao chose “Social Determinants of Health”, which explores how identity can affect well-being. “As a queer POC living in suburban Wisconsin, I grew up very aware of how the socio-economic disparities that come with being a minority are very evident in the system and directly impact the ‘access to health care, mental health resources, or even community resources like a gym,’ she explained.
HPHE majors have a variety of career options in hospitals, clinics, and nonprofit organizations. Federal positions are also available. In the short term, Gao is interested in working as a paramedic. In the long term, she would like to be involved in awareness programs and create better infrastructures so that marginalized communities have access to health care.
Gao emphasized that she personally wanted to work in a low-income community rather than an affluent area.
“I feel like the general idea is that low-income areas are places of high crime and poverty and that healthcare workers there get low pay for very demanding work, and that’s not just isn’t true,” Gao said. “These places need healthcare workers.”
Those interested in HPHE can consult the undergraduate guide for an overview of the requirements: https://guide.wisc.edu/undergraduate/education/kinesiology/health-promo-health-equity-bs/#text.
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