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African American students sharing time between classes

MPH Concentration: Community Health Education

Community health educators use multidisciplinary theories along with behavioral and organizational change principles to plan, implement, and evaluate interventions that enable individuals, groups, and communities to achieve personal, environmental, and social health.

The community health education (CHE) program’s strengths include a multi-disciplinary perspective among faculty, a substantial number of community-based class projects where students gain practical experiences to prepare for the public health workforce, and opportunities for involvement with our innovative partner, the Knox County Health Department–through the UT-Knox County Academic Health Department.

Consider a career in community health education if you view yourself as a natural teacher, a skilled communicator, and a person who enjoys serving as a resource. Students come from a wide variety of undergraduate programs, including psychology, nutrition, human services, biology, communications, marketing, and more. The health educator is trained to use appropriate educational strategies and methods to facilitate the development of policies, procedures, interventions, and systems conducive to the health of individuals, groups, and communities. Health educators work in a variety of settings. Examples include, but are not limited to: communities, schools, post-secondary educational institutions, mental health agencies, public health agencies, governmental agencies, environmental agencies, rehabilitation centers, professional associations, work sites (both business and industry), medical care institutions, and voluntary health agencies or non-governmental organizations.


A community health education student develops the following competencies:

  • Assesses health related data about social and cultural environments, and individual and community needs for health promotion.
  • Designs community health promotion programs, strategies, and interventions consistent with specified program objectives.
  • Implements community health promotion programs, strategies, and interventions.
  • Conducts high quality evaluation and research related to community health promotion.
  • Serves as a community health resource person.
  • Effectively communicates health issues to various audiences.

Note: The selected competencies were taken from “A Competency-Based Framework for Professional Development of Certified Health Education Specialists,” “Standards for Preparation of Graduate-Level Health Educators,” and the “Competencies Update Project.”
CHE student posing with African American boy with faces painted


Placement of CHE students in health education internships (also called field practice) with an affiliated health organization for an equivalent of nine weeks is an essential component of the MPH degree program. The field practice site is selected by each individual CHE student in consultation with the field practice coordinator and major professor. The intern typically functions as a staff assistant with a practicing health educator serving as mentor. Although rotating through several units of an organization provides opportunity for gaining orientation and general experience, the intern is assigned one or more specific projects for in-depth problem-solving. The field experience is guided by a set of learning objectives related to public health competencies. Learning objectives are mutually developed by student and supervising preceptor during the first week of the internship. Read more about the field practice experience by clicking here.

Become a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES)

Students completing UT’s MPH degree with a concentration in community health education are well-prepared to take the CHES exam. Some of the most rewarding jobs in public health are filled by Certified Health Education Specialists (CHES). In addition to being professionally prepared as a health educator, a person with CHES is credentialed after demonstrating competency-based criteria established by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, Inc. (NCHEC).  The rate of successful completion of the exam by UT graduates is highly encouraging, and some graduates have gone on to achieve the MCHES (Master Certified Health Education Specialist) certification.


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