Public Health vs. Health Promotion Management

Advancements in science, technology and healthcare have made at least one thing crystal clear, it will take everyone’s best efforts to improve health in communities all over the world.

This far-flung realization has led to a wealth of career opportunities for people who are passionate about health. There are many exciting professional paths that center on the singular goal of better health, opening up a broad variety of options.

Understanding the nuances of public health vs. health promotion management helps prospective practitioners expedite and enhance their professional journey.


Defining Public Health vs. Health Promotion Management

Public Health

From the ever-increasing life expectancy to childhood obesity, global pandemics and even the environment, public health is a concept that touches everyone. It’s a hotbed issue that’s deeply ingrained at the political, organizational and personal level.

“Public health systems are commonly defined as ‘all public, private, and voluntary entities that contribute to the delivery of essential public health services within a jurisdiction, ” says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This includes:

  • Public health agencies at state and local levels
  • Healthcare providers
  • Public safety agencies
  • Human service and charity organizations
  • Education and youth development organizations
  • Recreation and arts-related organizations
  • Economic and philanthropic organizations
  • Environmental agencies and organizations


Health Promotion Management

Health promotion is the science and art of helping people, organizations, and communities change lifestyle behaviors to move toward a state of improved health, resulting in decreases in chronic disease and health care costs.

University-level health promotion management programs focus on the development of managerial skills with knowledge in subjects such as exercise physiology, human biochemistry, behavioral psychology and nutrition. Students can pursue an emphasis in areas including:

  • Corporate health
  • Health communication
  • Health policy
  • Global health
  • Nutrition education


Discovering the Right Career For You

Public Health Career Opportunities

Virtually anyone within the broad spectrum of the health field could reap benefits from a public health degree program.

While a public health degree certainly can prove useful in private sector positions, it’s particularly applicable in the nonprofit, government and medical sectors.

Health Promotion Management Job Opportunities

For students who foresee a career spent leading and educating people and groups to make better, fact-based decisions to improve their quality of life, a health promotion management (HPM) program often is the best choice. At American University in Washington, D.C., HPM alumni are impacting communities locally, nationally and globally at organizations such as:

  • Wellness Corporate Solutions
  • Mayo Clinic
  • Pan American Health Organization
  • Partnership to Promote Healthy Eating and Active Living
  • Mindfulness Center National
  • WIC Association
  • American Heart Association
  • Booz Allen Hamilton
  • US Department of Health and Human Services


Emphasis on Care vs. Innovation in Education

Addressing Public Danger

The CDC Foundation calls the CDC, “our nation’s premier public health agency.” Most public health degree programs prepare students for careers that are in step with the CDC’s mission: “CDC works 24/7 to protect America from health, safety and security threats, both foreign and in the U.S. Whether diseases start at home or abroad, are chronic or acute, curable or preventable, human error or deliberate attack, CDC fights disease and supports communities and citizens to do the same.”

In other words, earning a degree in public health is an important step toward protecting people from a wide variety of health concerns.

Innovative Engagement Through Health Promotion Management

When American University started the first U.S. degree program combining the concepts of health and wellness with the principles of business and management, it put a new spin on public health. HPM students learn about everything from individual decision-making and corporate America to government policy in an effort to promote healthy behaviors and improve quality of life.

Whether serving in a Fortune 500 company’s health and wellness department or as a leading decision-maker at a think-tank, an HPM graduate has the tools to improve health and well-being from the ground up.


If you are interested in the multi-sector impact of a degree in Health Promotion Management, learn more about American University’s Master’s in HPM Program.



Healthy Schools Act in DC Gives Grad Students Hands-On Training

In some communities, 100 percent of a grad student’s research is done online. But in a metro area—especially Washington, DC—much of that research can be gathered, observed, and analyzed in the field, where firsthand experience with the “real world” can teach us valuable lessons.

For five years, students in American University’s MS in health promotion management program have helped measure fruit and vegetable consumption for the local Healthy Schools Act, a 2010 directive requiring the availability of healthier foods in DC school cafeterias.

The program also features courses that empower students to visit Capitol Hill and chat with congressional leaders about vital health issues. “Health policy is so important and totally interesting, and it’s happening right here,” said Hannah Hutton, a master’s student in the program.

Watch the video to learn more about how hands-on work in the field of health promotion management is helping master’s students create generational change.

To learn more about what students and professionals are saying about the MS in health promotion management program at American University, click here.

Health promotion at American University

Master’s Students Unify Around Art, Science, and Passion to Promote Health

No university program should use long history and rich tradition as an excuse to settle for the status quo. American University has the oldest master’s in health promotion management program in the U.S. — but also some of the most advantageous, hands-on education activities anywhere.

Some students have been able to dive into data collection for Washington DC’s Healthy Schools Act, many have found exceptional internships, and other take advantage of nearby access to U.S. congressional leaders.

Opportunities such as these draw students from various undergraduate backgrounds — ranging from public health and exercise science to English and history. Together, their tactics and professionals aspirations may differ, but they’re unified around an important goal: for people throughout the world to experience healthier lives through better decisions and instrumental policies.

“We need to go further upstream to help people prevent these kinds of chronic conditions that we see in today’s society,” said Anastasia Snelling, chair of AU’s Department of Health Studies.

Watch the video to hear students talk about the unique benefits of seeking a master’s degree in health promotion management in Washington DC.

To learn more about what students and professionals are saying about the MS in health promotion management program at American University, click here.

Woman Notebook Working Girl

Master’s Class Focuses on Connections Between Health Equity and Social Justice

It was during her graduate studies at American University that Jessica Young discovered the depth of her interest in the different ways that populations experience health.

“I knew that I wanted to use my career to improve the public’s health and that working with policy would be a way to impact the health of thousands to millions of people at a time,” she said.

It’s quite fitting to welcome Young back to AU as she strives to help others unlock their own unique passions and goals for making lasting improvements in health and well-being. With a master’s degree in health promotion management from AU, Young will lead the HPRM 480/680 class, Health Policy and Behavior Change, this fall.

She has a few key goals for this course, including to help students understand:

  • How policy can be leveraged to achieve population health behavior changes
  • The roles politics and advocacy play in health policymaking
  • How to navigate the policymaking process at the local, state and federal levels

The underlying goal in any class setting is to instill intellectual habits that help students become lifelong learners.

Good Questions Lead to Great Careers

“My experiences have been shaped by the power of inquiry,” said Young, who noted that her class lessons will be centered on a few essential questions to spark in-depth conversations.

Curiosity has been a key component of her lifelong passion for health. Even as a young soccer player, Young committed herself to researching and learning as much as she could about nutrition and strength training. Her journey of health discovery continued as she became a personal trainer and went through AU’s health promotion management MS program.

Like many students, it was during her graduate studies that Young’s interests evolved into what was poised to become her life’s work: health equity.

“At AU, I learned about the incredible role social policies such as housing, education, transportation, food, and employment policies play in shaping health — also known as the social determinants of health,” Young said.

Health Equity vs. Health Access

Ideal health equity would be if everyone had the opportunity to attain their highest level of health, according to the American Public Health Association. Much of Young’s work has centered on the impact of social policies on health equity, which she says continues to lag as many Americans languish without quality care.

Young’s background in the research of social justice’s relationship to health equity will provide unique context in the course she will teach at AU. Multi-layered subjects, such as the effects of racial and ethnic segregation on health and well-being, undoubtedly will arise as part of the curriculum.

“Segregation was a way of isolating people of color from opportunities that shape health, such as social services and quality education, housing, and jobs,” Young said. “We continue to see the health impacts of segregation today through disparities in infant mortality rates, life expectancy rates, and mortality, just to name a few.”

‘Embedding Equity’ Throughout Systems

After nearly completing her master’s degree and a PhD from the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, as well as two years of work with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Young looks forward to bringing her unique set of skills, ideas, and real-world examples to the table as the instructor for Health Policy and Behavior Change. One of the most important things she will focus on is the Race, Equity, and Inclusion (REI) frame.

“The REI frame helps organizations understand how to embed equity throughout their approach to systemic change,” Young said. Components of REI include:

  • Identifying the root causes of racial and ethnic inequities
  • Creating a shared language around equity
  • Tracking and assessing performance and progress toward equity

The REI frame is shaping everything from Young’s research agenda at AU to how she will prepare students to embed equity in their work now and for decades to come.


If you are passionate about creating lasting change in health polices and behaviors, learn more about American University’s Health Promotion Management Program.

Health facilities

AhealthyU: How Health and Wellness Programs Make a Positive Impact on Campus

AhealthyU, American University’s faculty and staff wellness program, is celebrating its 10th year. While its scope and goals have grown, the program’s inception was driven by both necessity and a deep desire to see its team flourish.

“We discovered that many of our faculty and staff were being treated for health conditions that could lead to heart disease and other serious illnesses,” said Andie Rowe, director of employee wellness and work-life at AU.

The university implemented AhealthyU to improve employee medical conditions and better manage ballooning healthcare costs. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, which is consistent with the trend toward proactive health that is gaining ground in offices, campuses, and schools throughout the world.

For organizations, the effects include happier, healthier, more productive faculty and staff and reduced healthcare expenditures. For individuals, it simply means a better life.

“Programs like AhealthyU are important because they provide opportunities for faculty and staff to engage in healthy activities, learn about important health issues, and understand that their employer is interested in their overall well-being,” Rowe said.

What makes a good wellness program?

Much of AhealthyU’s success—about 500 people are participating—revolves around convenience. By offering many types of activities appealing to a wide variety of interests at convenient times and locations, AU makes it simple to get plugged in. The most popular opportunities include:

  • Fitness classes (on and off site)
  • Brown bag wellness workshops
  • Cooking demonstrations
  • Pedometer and weight challenges.

What makes the program such a success?

As is the case in most successful wellness programs, buy-in for AhealthyU is consistent throughout the organization, said Leah Tasman, wellness program manager at AU. Leaders from HR, administration, and a wellness council composed of faculty and staff provide support and feedback, which helps drive future decisions about AhealthyU.

Incentives are a driving factor, too. Motivators for AhealthyU activities include:

  • A $50 incentive for participating in a health assessment survey
  • A monetary reward for winning a team challenge
  • Cool fitness-related items such as wicking T-shirts or yoga mats, earned by achieving predetermined goals.

Do students have a role?

For students working toward an MS in Health Promotion Management (HPM), AhealthyU is a valuable asset. The program employs a part-time graduate assistant and draws support from many other HPM students through class projects. In fact, Tasman herself served as a graduate assistant with AhealthyU while earning her own HPM master’s degree.

“It’s important to get HPM students involved because it exposes them to real-world worksite health promotion and helps to re-enforce what they’re learning in class,” she said.


To learn more about AhealthyU and the MS in Health Promotion Management at American University, visit the program webpage or follow along in Facebook.


Global Healthy Workplace Summit Brings Program Innovation to Washington, DC

By Wolf Kirsten

Regardless of country, historical background, local government, or cultural trends, workplace health promotion is vital. It’s easier than ever to fall into sedentary behaviors and poor eating habits, which is why we need more professionals throughout the world who have the talents, passion, and work ethic to help people, organizations and communities change lifestyle behaviors and improve their health.

The fourth annual Global Healthy Workplace Awards & Summit, set for June 7 in Washington, DC, is an exciting convergence of groups and individuals from across the globe who are taking health promotion to new places in innovative ways.

Although not associated with the World Health Organization, the #GHWAwards follow the WHO’s Healthy Workplace framework—a comprehensive way of thinking and acting that addresses workplace risks, promotes and supports healthy behaviors, and takes into consideration broad social and environmental determinants. The six healthiest workplaces in the world will present their programs in front of a distinguished panel of judges and audience members.

Taking place on the campus of American University—my alma mater—this event celebrates the only global awards program in the field. It’s also an invaluable opportunity for AU students in the Health Promotion Management Program to see not only how their future profession is progressing, but why those in the field believe their messages of health and well-being can and will be heard.

It’s important to remember that workplace health promotion is expanding all over the world—it’s called the “Global” Healthy Workplace Awards & Summit for a reason. No two countries are the same, thus health promotion requires tailored efforts.

Social factors affecting workplace health may vary from country to country, but certain aspects of employer health programs prove important no matter where in the world you are—factors such as:

  • Support from senior management and leadership. Buy-in from those in charge goes a long way toward workplace health advancement. Without buy-in, such progress is virtually impossible.
  • Comprehensive and integrated programming. Many modern-day programs address the physical work environment, psychosocial work environment, personal health resources, and enterprise-community involvement.
  • Worker involvement—from the beginning. Ideally, new employees are educated about workplace health programs during the on-boarding process—and simultaneously inspired to jump right in. In addition, employees’ input on programming needs to be sought from the outset. That’s a how a culture of health and well-being takes shape.
  • Following a continual improvement process (including evaluation).

Of course, implementing health promotion programs involves much more than simply building employee participation. A program is much more likely to thrive when it fits the organization’s underlying mission and goals.

Measuring success can be tricky, though—especially because health care costs are measured differently in the US than they are in most other countries. Because US employers carry the burden of direct healthcare costs, for them it is all about containing or reducing these costs. In the rest of the world, the drivers behind wellness programs are much broader, including:

  • Absenteeism
  • Productivity
  • Employee morale and engagement
  • Recruitment and retention
  • Corporate social responsibility

These factors and more can be addressed by improving overall employee health and well-being, which really should be the underlying goal of workplace health programs throughout the world. Rapidly evolving program trends and emerging technologies keep health promotion professionals on their toes. They must be flexible, apt to experiment with communication methods and programming tools in response to the changing world around them. And, maybe most importantly, they must be able to convince their leadership to support and underwrite wellness programs.

When we gather at events such as the Global Healthy Workplace Awards & Summit, we have a prime opportunity to both celebrate and learn from the best and brightest in the field of health promotion management. When we improve, so does the art and science of health and well-being.


About Wolf Kirsten

Wolf is a social entrepreneur and Founder of International Health Consulting based in Tuscon, Arizona and Hamburg, Germany. He is also a proud alumnus of the health promotion management MS program.


Ready to make an impact? Interested in networking at events like #GHWAwards. Join a passionate community of health enthusiasts in master of science in health promotion management at AU.


7 Health, Fitness, and Nutrition Blogs You Should Follow

The rapid expansion of health-related content available on the Internet has its pros and cons. The most notable drawback is that consumers often feel overwhelmed and confused by hundreds of conflicting opinions, which can lead to poor decisions that hinder or at least stagnate health progress.

With all of the fitness and nutrition blogs out there, how do you know which ones to follow? We asked our students and faculty to recommend a few favorites. Here are seven health, fitness, and nutrition blogs you should follow:


  1. Healthy Happy Life

If the vibrant photography and inventive recipes don’t instantly draw you in, the ebullient personality of the author likely will. Vegan blogger and cookbook author Kathy Patalsky—a graduate of the Health Promotion Management Program at American University—drizzles every last drop of positivity and passion into her artfully designed concoctions.

Readers who aren’t vegan might just change their minds after spending a bit of time at Healthy Happy Life blog. Her sincere effusiveness and sunny disposition about creatively healthy fare is on point and looks so, so good.


  1. PlantifulBlog

Devin Ellsworth is another deeply passionate vegan blogger, coming from the unique perspective of a health coach. The PlantifulBlog provides valuable tips and personal stories that can help aspiring plant devotees stay the course.

Fully embracing any new diet/lifestyle can be really difficult, but’s it’s always easier with support from people who’ve walked in your shoes. Devin, who earned a master’s degree in health promotion management from American University, uses understanding, encouragement, and humor to guide people down a healthier path.


  1. Oh She Glows

For “Type A” vegans, Oh She Glows is a plant-based recipe blog that’s chock full of hearty details and tips. However, it’s much more than that. Angela Liddon, whose blog is read by more than 1 million people per month and who is releasing her second cookbook this fall, strives to inspire healthier eating for people of all backgrounds and beliefs.

“The best part about my recipes is that anyone can enjoy them, from vegans to omnivores alike,” Angela writes, adding that she hopes to inspire major changes such as losing weight, reducing meat consumption, overcoming eating disorders, and changing careers.


  1. Run to the Finish

If variety is the spice of life, the Run to the Finish blog is a full-on spice rack. Amanda Brooks uses her own story and knowledge as a foundation for sharing ideas that reinforce clean eating, fitness, and overall health and well-being.

Run to the Finish zigs and zags through an array of lifestyle topics, including nutritious recipes, workout routines, running tips, motivation, expert interviews, travel, and much more.


  1. Fannetastic Food

As a registered dietician, Anne Mauney uses her blog to share her expertise in healthy, tasty recipes—but Fannetastic Food is about much more than nutrition. Anne, who has a master’s of public health degree, is a marathoner, yogi and CrossFitter, as well as an advocate for outdoors recreation, adventure and travel.

The many photos routinely found in Anne’s posts help illustrate the diversity of daily situations in which solid choices can impact a person’s health.


  1. Minutes Per Mile

Mary from Nashville resonates with people because she talks about the stuff that people who want to stay healthy actually talk about. She shares stories about things that, for many, help make healthy living more fun and easy to embrace, such as:

  • Cool fitness-related gadgets and apparel
  • Delicious meals
  • Races
  • The mind-set of runners—with great tips for success

Mary also keeps her blog funny and honest. She always seems to share about what she’s feeling at that moment, which helps make her words more relatable and easy to integrate into one’s own life.


  1. Coffee Cake and Cardio

Coffee Cake and Cardio is much more about real life than the “perfect life.” Former powerlifter and track and field thrower Ashley talks about struggles, not just victories. She discusses what works and what fails miserably. Perhaps most importantly, she provides a viewpoint that many moms can relate and respond to.

While not fully about fitness or nutrition, Coffee Cake and Cardio consistently takes an honest, positive look at ways to improve well-being and become more self-aware.


You can keep track of news and progress in health and well-being by following American University’s Health Promotion Management Program Facebook page.


AU Researcher Suggests Avoiding Certain Food Additives Can Alleviate Neurological Symptoms

D15_158_August_OS_Faculty nfs Kathleen_Holton, SETH, faculty

Often it’s the hot-button, trendy, social-media-friendly health topics that get the general populace buzzing about health and well-being. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, there’s a wealth of research, strategy, and passion converging in efforts to truly improve the state of health—and not just spur a new crop of popular diet books.

In the work of Dr. Kathleen Holton, a nutritional neuroscientist and Assistant Professor at American University, there is the rare collision of mainstream trendiness and highly substantive research, as she delves into an issue that affects virtually everyone: food additives.

Over the years, the popularity of various sugar substitutes has swelled and waned, over and over again. Today it is found in everything from soda and cookies to gum, breath mints, yogurts, cereals, and even bread. Many people seem to feel a sense of nutrition invincibility when using their sweetener of choice instead of sugar.

On the contrary, Dr. Holton recommends that people avoid all artificial sweeteners. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Association with many negative health effects
  • Potential adverse effect on ability to taste natural sweetness in food
  • Artificial sweeteners are hundreds of times sweeter than sugar, which cultivates increased desire for sweetness in foods

“My goal is to help people eat better, which includes eating more fruits and vegetables,” Holton said. “I want people to be able to taste the natural sugar in these foods, and the best way to do that is to help them reduce their consumption of highly sweet foods.”


Research: Avoiding Food Additives Can Alleviate Neurological Symptoms

Dr. Holton’s research examines the negative effects of dietary excitotoxins on neurological symptoms, as well as the protective effects of certain micronutrients on the brain. The most common dietary excitotoxins in the US. are from food additives used as flavor enhancers, such as MSG, and the artificial sweetener aspartame.

Early in Dr. Holton’s career, she was intrigued by anecdotal reports of neurological symptoms being reduced when people stopped consuming certain food additives. Her research into the chemical composition of these food additives, and the potential biologic mechanism for how these may be able to affect health, led her to create a diet that limited the consumption of certain additives. She has tested this diet in individuals with fibromyalgia, with very promising results, and will be testing the diet as a potential treatment for ADHD in the near future.

“Studying this diet has been amazing on multiple fronts,” Dr. Holton said. “Not only have I seen dramatic improvement in neurological symptoms such as pain, memory loss, cognitive dysfunction, and mental health disorders like depression and OCD, but importantly, I have also watched subjects report a huge reduction in cravings for junk food, which may also have important implications for the obesity epidemic.”


Informing the Masses

While phrases such as “dietary excitotoxins” aren’t likely to crack the general public’s lexicon anytime soon, Dr. Holton does hope more people will recognize and respond to the health ramifications of poor dietary choices, including the fact that processed food in our country is not only a source of excess fat and sugar in the diet, but also increases our exposure to food additives. “For instance, in the US we are exposed to more than 3,000 food additives, whereas in Canada and the European Union, people are exposed to less than 500 food additives.”

As Dr. Holton’s research illustrates, there is plenty of work to be done by graduates of health programs such as those at American University. There’s a wealth of knowledge that needs to be communicated through workplaces, nonprofits, governmental agencies, schools and more, to help individuals improve their health.

In the nutrition classes that Dr. Holton teaches at AU, she sees students who are excited to learn about health and who are passionate for the work they will be doing in the future.

“I love hearing about their conversations with friends and relatives and how they are looking at what they eat in a whole new way. Nutrition education is something that can profoundly impact people’s lives.”


Interested in research like Dr. Holton’s on food additives? Learn more about a master’s degree in health promotion management from American University.




3 Tips from Health Promotion Management Alumni

By Stephanie George, MS, CHES

Stephanie_George__HeadshotWithout question, one of the best parts of my career in health promotion management is the opportunity to meet and encourage my future colleagues in this field—a field defined by true passion for better health and well-being.

Recently I returned to my alma mater for American University’s Annual Alumni Panel for the Health Promotion Management Program. This was a prime opportunity for aspiring professionals to learn different ways their degrees can be utilized to make a difference in the world. Even just the list of panelists is an encouraging indicator of what’s possible for health promotion students:

  • Jessica Mack (MS ’05): Manager of Corporate Health at Virginia Hospital
  • Teha Kennard (MS ’08): Senior Associate at Booz Allen Hamilton
  • Lauren Brayer (MS ’09): Senior Program Manager at Sodexo
  • Sarah Kuchinos (MS ’13): Fitness Specialist at National Center for Weight and Wellness
  • Moderator – Sherry Compton (MS ’05): Independent Management Consultant

I graduated from AU with a master’s degree in health promotion management in May 2014 and now work as a Wellness Program Administrator for Navy Federal Credit Union, facilitating their employee wellness programs and initiatives. My fellow event panelists and I may have very different jobs among us, but we were able to agree on several important tips for attendees to both navigate the health promotion job market and maximize their potential in the field they love.


1. When in doubt, network.

College students often are intimidated by the idea of networking and reaching out to people they don’t know very well, but in reality, most professionals are very helpful—if asked. Most people are willing to meet up for coffee and share their experiences. Often the topics range from health promotion trends to intra-office politics and how things actually work behind the scenes. All of it is good to know.

Even the savviest networking efforts don’t always directly lead to a job offer, but the info gleaned is invaluable. Also, the whole process is great practice for interviewing and selecting positions to apply for in the future.


2. Convey your passion for health promotion.

Whether at a casual gathering or in a crowded boardroom, be honest about your passion for health and well-being—and for promoting it. People will respond to your enthusiasm. If you don’t speak up about what you’re interested in, you might miss out on valuable opportunities.

Our panel noted that while there are many variables affecting one’s work in the health promotion field, the main drivers of success include:

  • Passion
  • Hard work
  • Continual learning
  • Persistence
  • Creativity
  • Ability and willingness to adapt


3. Seize every opportunity.

It’s impossible to predict the quantity and quality of opportunities you’ll encounter during your career. Perhaps the next one will be the best you ever find.

Take advantage of every opportunity. View every experience as a chance to learn more about yourself and the industry. Even if the process involves stepping outside your comfort zone, you’ll find that it’s worth the effort.

With a master’s degree in health promotion management, there are so many potential paths that lie in front of you. Those paths lead in different directions, with unique twists and turns along the way. You may have to traverse a few of them before finding your niche.

Wherever you end up, we welcome you to the world of health promotion management—where improving health and well-being is equal parts art and science.


Are you considering a career that involves the art and science of health promotion? Learn about achieving a master’s degree in health promotion management from American University.

DC Capitol

5 Reasons to Study Health in DC

No city features a more diverse convergence of richly beneficial internship and service opportunities than Washington, DC. Our graduate students discover many perks while living and studying in the District. So we asked for their thoughts, and they answered. Here are the five most exciting advantages of studying health in DC:

1. Social Justice Opportunities

Social justice means different things to different types of people. Luckily, DC has something for just about everyone. A large amount of nationally known nonprofits are headquartered here, covering just about every issue imaginable.

Naturally, many health promotion management students interpret social justice through the lens of widening opportunities for people to improve their health and well-being. You can easily find dozens of DC-based, health-related nonprofits to volunteer or intern at, including:


2. Access to Federal Agencies and Lawmakers

American University students are in close proximity to the lawmakers who shape many critical policies, as well as the national budget. You’ll attend public meetings that provide more than a glimpse into how nation-changing decisions originate and come to fruition.

Federal agencies provide a wealth of potential, too. Enterprising students—often with help from professors and alumni—can seek internships, research materials, informational interviews, and more from impactful agencies such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.


3. International Experiences

Washington, DC, also functions as a de facto gateway into international opportunities. This area is a hotbed for internationally focused groups such as the World Bank and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

With so many US and international organizations based nearby, AU students with worldwide goals can work to make connections and develop relationships that will help them secure internships or full-time positions overseas after graduation.


4. Vibrant ‘Classroom’ Experiences

In many situations, it’s the university itself that connects health promotion graduate students with unique opportunities in Washington, DC. Health-related advocacy exercises on Capitol Hill. On-campus lectures from global leaders. Off-campus tours of significant organizations. Our students’ experiences go far beyond the pages of a textbook and the edges of a whiteboard.

“Studying in DC gives me access to amazing professionals and staff, internships, volunteering, and networking events,” said Andrea Battaglia, who is working toward a health promotion management master’s degree from AU. “The success that lies within the city is both empowering and motivational.”


5. Clean Living

Beyond the numerous opportunities for innovative learning and career preparation, DC is a great place for health-minded individuals to live, study, work, and play. Andrea said she enjoys how clean the city is, with great weather that draws adventurous, outdoorsy people to the area.

“I love being able to walk around different parts of DC, whether it’s a farmers market or the waterfront, with thousands of people buzzing on the sidewalks,” Battaglia said.

The benefits of studying health in Washington, DC, extend from the classroom to local businesses and agencies to the community’s parks and walkways. It’s a comprehensive experience that serves as a wonderful base for a career spent promoting health and well-being.


If you are interested in pursuing your master’s degree in health promotion management in Washington, DC, please visit our program page to start your application today.




Five-Year Report on the Healthy School Act

For the past five years, American University has worked with the Kaiser Foundation of the Mid-Atlantic States to assess the success of the 2010 Healthy Schools Act (HSA) in Washington, DC. The District Council enacted the HSA to help make schools healthier environments in which to learn and work.

It’s essential to ensure students’ well-being during the school day. The HSA supports that schools are just as responsible for children’s nutrition and health as they are for success in reading, math, and other traditional subjects.

To measure the impact of the HSA in its initial five-year period, campus researchers in the Health Promotion Management Program conducted a longitudinal analysis of six areas listed below. Here are some of the most encouraging success stories from the report.


School Meals

The percentage of schools that indicated their meals met or exceeded HSA requirements rose from 90 percent in 2010-11 to 100 percent in 2014-15.


School Gardens & Farm to School

The HSA initiated funding for school gardens, which boosted the prevalence of such gardens by about five percent in five years. Additionally, reporting requirements regarding processed foods helped the region attain an intriguing statistic: 95 percent of schools reported serving locally grown and/or locally processed and unprocessed foods during meal times.


Local Wellness Policy

Wide-ranging expansion of federal goals for local wellness policies fostered stronger partnerships between parents, administrators, and other involved parties. Anecdotal evidence shows unique strides ranging from new on-campus green spaces to fun family exercise nights.


School Nurses

Given their role as the link between family, community, school personnel, and healthcare providers, school nurses were identified as a key priority in the HSA. As a result, the percentage of schools with either a part-time or full-time nurse rose in both public schools and public charter schools.


Physical Education

Physical activity is critical to optimizing cognitive function during the school day, which is why the HSA made consistent physical education time a priority. In five years, the average minutes of physical education per week for middle-schoolers rose by more than 30 minutes.

The success of the Healthy Schools Act has united local leaders and parents in their support of continued focus and effort toward better health and wellness for children. Much work lies ahead, yet clear strides thus far have shown that the HAS is on the right track for long-term impact.


Interested in more information on the HSA report results?

  • The Washington Post delves into the link between physical education and math test scores.
  • Another story takes an honest look at what’s working—increased prevalence of school nurses and on-site gardens, for instance— and what should improve, such as the average time students spend in PE.

For more data about how DC schools are improving opportunities for healthy lifestyles among students, download the full Five-Year Report on the Healthy School Act.

Health Promotion Master's at American University

Earn Your Degree in Health Promotion Management

Health promotion students are passionate about health and fitness. They’re on campus brainstorming marketing plans and strategies for health promotion. They’re out in the District community impacting corporate health and wellness for local companies.


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Ready to join our community? The priority deadline for Fall 2016 enrollment is just around the corner. Get started on your application today.

2016 Health Trends from American University

2016 Health Trends from American University

This time of year, many people invest a great deal of time, thought, money, and effort into ways to improve their health and well-being. This pervasive openness to new health ideas draws people to a wide variety of health-related trends—from weight-loss programs and diet fads to exciting exercise routines.

Research in our Department of Health Studies focuses on trends in nutrition and fitness that can help people, organizations, and communities change lifestyle behaviors to move toward a state of improved health. Here are a few key 2016 trends we’ve been discussing on campus:


Health Coaching

As more people look to take their short- and long-term health into their own hands, the field of health coaching should continue to expand.

Foundationally, health coaches are trained professionals who provide mentoring, motivation, and personalized support to empower individuals to make beneficial health choices. Training programs throughout the US offer health-coaching certification.

We already see the influx of health coaches working with independent corporations, insurance companies, workplace wellness programs, and similar groups. In 2016, we envision healthcare clinics, patient-centered medical homes, and healthcare-at-home delivery organizations will utilize health coaches and patient advocates more than ever before.

In response to growing demand, new health coach training programs will arise, and existing programs will become more advanced.


Interactive Health Data

The availability of “big data” has industries and individuals clamoring for tools to analyze and respond to statistics. The rampant popularity of wearables doesn’t appear to be waning, and new tools will be increasingly interactive. Instead of simply tracking data, self-health, and fitness technology—wearables, mobile apps, and health-related games—will evolve to provide responsive coaching and granular analytics that are customizable to the user.

The sharing of personal health data via interactive technology continues to draw skepticism, but for many the benefits of personalized self-health outweigh such fears. We anticipate more healthcare facilities developing ways to integrate behavior-tracking technology into their patient care models.


Stress Support

Research indicates that stress levels in the workplace are at an all-time high. In efforts to allay the myriad of minor and major health problems stemming from stress, many companies will encourage their employees to take stress-reduction breaks, exercise regularly, and eat nutritious foods at the office. Stress-mindful businesses can greatly reduce long-term healthcare costs for the business and their staff members.

Workplaces with excellent communication between managers and their teams thrive at minimizing stress. Approximately 70 percent of individuals complain that their boss is the number one cause of their stress.


Intuitive Eating Rather than Weight Obsession

While losing weight can be an excellent boon for your health, it’s also important to address the underlying approach you take to eating. Intuitive eating enables people to develop a symbiotic relationship between their food, mind, and body. By respecting your cues for taste, hunger, and satisfaction, and by limiting negative distractions, you can improve your health without engaging in militant, potentially harmful dieting practices.


Expanded View of Overall Well-Being

With issues such as mental health and gun violence planted squarely in the public’s line of sight, 2016 will present ample opportunities for thoughtful, fair-minded discussions about overall health and well-being. As a result, we hope for strong decisions—at the individual and governmental levels—and community partnerships that cultivate healthier, safer lives throughout the world.



Interested in researching and leading change towards positive health trends in the US and throughout the world? Learn how a master’s degree in health promotion management from American University can help you reach your goals.


Community Garden

AU Students Do Their Part to Build Healthy Communities and Give Back in DC

Written by Dr. Anastasia Snelling

Each year the students, faculty, and staff in the Health Promotion Management Program select a holiday community service project. In the past, we have adopted families from a local maternal and childcare clinic and surprised them on Christmas morning with gifts for children and/or their homes.

In 2014, we donated over 25 teddy bears to children at the local Ronald McDonald House. This year we collected canned goods for the Arlington Food Assistance Center. Over 50 students, faculty, and staff, contributed hundreds of canned goods to stock the shelves of the local food bank.

Our program is committed to addressing health disparities by partnering with local community health agencies and organizations. Health Promotion Management students make it their mission to give back to the Washington DC area with active volunteerism throughout the year.

JR Denson, an incoming master’s student, had the opportunity to work on a project with Dr. Elizabeth Cotter in Arlington. JR, Dr. Cotter, and six other graduate students worked with the Arlington community to create a community garden. Together with the residents of the neighborhood, the group built plant beds filled with vegetables that were harvested at the end of the summer.

The following spring, JR was awarded a grant from AU’s Eagle Foundation. The goal of the grant was to collaborate with a local organization, Little Lights, a non-profit located in Southeast DC, which offers after school tutoring and mentoring to children living in nearby public housing.

JR was inspired by his community garden project in Arlington. Armed with a few gardening skills and a generous budget, JR worked with Little Lights staff and children to create an on-site teaching garden. Similar to the project in Arlington, JR and the team worked together to construct and harvest a garden that brought together people in the local community. At the end of the summer, JR was able to lead elementary-level cooking lessons with the children.

I’m proud to be a part of the strong community in the Health Promotion Management Program where students like JR are doing their part to take lessons learned in the classroom and apply them to give back to our community.


Looking for a graduate program that gives you the opportunity to make a difference in the local community? Learn more about the health program management MS program at AU.



Dr. Anastasia Snelling is a professor and chair of the Department of Health Studies at American University. Her research aims to understand the impact of food policy and programs on health and weight status of students and teachers in the school environment.



5 Nutrition and Health Tips for the Holidays

Even the most ardent nutrition advocate is susceptible to treat-induced slip-ups and skipped workout sessions during the holiday season. From sugary beverages and baked goods, to high-fat savory dishes, there’s a bevy of food-related obstacles to avoid. Plus, with all that eating, who has the time and willpower to stay active?

You do! With firm goals, knowledge, and cool technology, you can change your behaviors to move toward improved health and well-being. In the spirit of change and personal responsibility, here are five nutrition and health tips for the holidays.


  1. Change the Recipes, Not the Items

Many traditional holiday favorites are fairly healthy when prepared certain ways, yet quite unhealthy when other recipes are applied. Cranberry and sweet potato dishes are among the items that tend to have wide-ranging nutritional value, depending on the cook’s plan of action.

In the same vein, seasonally popular holiday meats such as ham, turkey, and goose serve as robust sources of protein. However, for these meats, strive to find recipes that minimize additional sugar, fat, and salt.


  1. Savor Moderation

At this point, most people seem to understand that almost any food item is better for you in moderation than in vast supply—especially foods that lack nutritional benefits. However, getting people to discipline themselves to eat moderate amounts of food during the holidays is easier said than done.

Self-control during the holidays is made easier when we embrace the pleasure of smaller quantities and take great care to think about and experience the flavors intertwined in each bite. When you eat less and reduce bloating, you free yourself up to be more active during the holidays too. It’s a win-win!


  1. Exercise in Spirited Spurts

The holiday season can be a tricky time to get in those regularly scheduled workouts. Between travel, family outings, parties, and general hustle and bustle, getting to the gym can be difficult.

It works out well that shorter, significantly strenuous exercise sessions arguably are the best kind for your health and well-being. Obviously 20-minute workout sessions are easier to fit into the day planner, or even spur of the moment. More importantly, studies show that high-intensity bursts of fitness help burn fat faster and improve fitness.


  1. Focus on Meals instead of Snacks

One of the most common and easily taken for granted nutrition traps is snacks. As people mill around living rooms and holiday parties, chatting, and laughing with friends or relatives, it’s all too easy to down a platter’s worth of cocktail wieners, seasonal cookies, and the like—perhaps without even realizing it.

If you can resolve yourself to become satiated during healthy, tasty square meals during the holidays, hopefully you’ll be less likely to aimlessly stuff yourself during the snacking hours.


  1. Use Technology to Your Advantage

The popularity of fitness and nutrition technology has skyrocketed as of late. While the sheer quantity of health-related apps and gadgets boggles the mind, zeroing in on one tool that fits your unique needs can be a great help.

The various fitness apps for mobile devices cater to a wide array of people. Some focus on motivating the user, while others are all about monitoring data such as daily steps, calories burned, heart rate, and much more. Goal-setting is another key function of many apps.

To improve nutritious and ramp up healthy eating, cooking gadgets often motivate people to try healthier options than they’re used to. If you have an immersion blender, oil mister, or handheld chopper, what’s standing in your way?

The holidays don’t have to be defined by unhealthy overeating and lack of exercise. With the right goals, plan of action, and even technology, you can change your behaviors and move toward a state of improved health.


Learn about how a master’s degree in health promotion management from American University can help you impact the world and change health behaviors.


Photo: Markus Spiske


Finding Community in Your Grad Program


Jen_Fields_HeadshotPeople find their passion and purpose at different stages of life. For students like Jen Fields, those points intersect amid the art and science of the Health Promotion Management Program at American University.

Jen already had a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology when she arrived at AU, but it’s her postgraduate education that is giving her a renewed sensed of community and vision as she moves toward a career centered on improving health and well-being.

By the time she was finishing up her bachelor’s degree in 2013, Jen knew she was interested in exercise—she’s a part-time personal trainer—nutrition and research. However, she wasn’t aware she could combine all those passions in a hands-on master’s program such as the Health Promotion Management Program at American University.

“I didn’t even know I could get a degree in that,” she said, adding that the personal attention she received from an AU adviser while researching the program was very encouraging.

“I was just a number” as an undergraduate, Jen said. But it was different when she arrived at AU. One of her professors knew her by name from her first week on campus—before they’d even officially met.

Her classmates were just as easy to connect with, partly because many of them were taking the same classes together. From social events each semester to community service events to annual holiday gatherings, the health promotion management students are more supportive than competitive.

Jen and her peers feel comfortable enough with each other to routinely share job opportunities back and forth—the type of reciprocal respect that stems from each student having a unique set of talents, skills, passions, and goals.

One of the most advantageous aspects of the program is being able to infuse their own interests and career aspirations into the coursework, Jen said. Her de facto area of emphasis is sports nutrition, which she is exploring within a wide-ranging curriculum. As a health promotion management student, her coursework has included:

  • Getting a firsthand look at real-world health policy on Capitol Hill
  • Planning an end-to-end social marketing campaign
  • Developing infographics, other marketing tools, and more

After completing her master’s degree, Jen’s aspirations include earning a PhD and becoming a professor. She is excited to share the knowledge she’s gathered about how sports nutrition and exercise can improve our world.

“I just want to teach the information I love,” said Jen, who yearns to see vast improvements in the way the general public integrates important health information. With huge swaths of skewed opinions and purported facts available on the Internet, Jen envisions better public knowledge on topics such as how to affordably eat healthful foods.

“People will spend $5 at McDonald’s rather than go to the grocery store and buy produce,” she said. “It’s ultimately about educating people.”


Do you want to use your passion for health and well being to improve the world? Learn about a master’s degree in health promotion management from American University.



Film by Best-selling Author Validates Art and Science of Health Promotion

With the presence of several hot-button, controversial health issues at the forefront in our country and world, it’s easy to lose sight of the depth and breadth of factors affecting health and well-being. It’s about much more than insurance coverage and calorie counting.

As best-selling author Tom Rath addresses in his book and documentary Are You Fully Charged?, improving health and well-being is a complex, multi-faceted endeavor. Through his research, Rath has unearthed factors that indicate a “fully charged” day-to-day life. He found amazing stories of healthier choices, interactions that strengthen relationships, and the pursuit of meaning over happiness.

A recent showing of Rath’s documentary on campus at American University—where he helped launch our new Department of Health Studies—sparked discussions and ideas among students, professors, and others about how they can change the world around them. The movie provided powerful, inspiring examples of how actions that improve someone else’s life and that spur positive moments are connected to better mental and physical health.

Rath’s book and movie resonate with students and staff from the Health Promotion Management Program at American University, because his research helps validate what we have made our mission in life. While our areas of emphasis vary a great deal, the underlying goal that drives us also unites us: We are determined to help people, organizations, and communities change lifestyle behaviors to move toward a state of improved health.

Much like the science and art of health promotion that we learn and teach about daily, the type of work that Rath discovered during his research gives framework and definition to intangible concepts that we hold dear:

  • A church giving its members $500 to spend on others
  • A gardener planting vegetables in abandoned lots
  • A nonprofit helping thousands of low-income students go to college

To add remarkable credibility to his assertions, Rath turned to world-renowned experts in behavioral health, the psychology of spending, social networks, decision-making and behavioral economics, willpower and the role of meaning in the workplace. The result is a thought- and effort-provoking documentary that proves there are practical ways to energize your life.

These real-world success stories encourage our MS in health promotion management students to continue striving. At the moment, they are studying what they can do to make a difference in fields ranging from corporate health and personal nutrition to global health policy.

Soon, their ideas, goals, and hard work will yield “fully charged” personal lives, careers and surrounding communities—and we’ll all be better for it.


Are you ready to turn your passion for health and well-being into a world-changing career? Learn about our master’s degree in health promotion management from American University.


These Health Promotion Alumni Are Making A Difference With Their Degrees

The students in our health promotion management master’s program go on to do incredible things in areas including corporate health, exercise physiology, health communication, health policy, global health, and nutrition.

Here are a few examples of American University alumni who are applying their knowledge and passion to truly benefit the communities around them:


Kristen Cox (Class of 2008)

Title: Senior Director, Policy & Advocacy, Cancer Support Community

Kristen Cox left the health promotion management program with an understanding of health behaviors, the healthcare system, policy, and “hot topics” in the industry.

These bricks of her health promotion management education gave her a strong foundational starting point when building policy positions, white papers, and talking points were needed.

In her current role as senior director of policy and advocacy for the Cancer Support Community, Kristen works to support people living with cancer, as well as their families. Her work is promoting health—in a powerful way—by:

  • Convening experts in the cancer field to come to consensus on timely topics
  • Advocating for increased access to cancer care, pain management, and hospice and palliative care
  • Raising awareness about cancer prevention


Abigail Walsh (Class of 2014)

Title: Wellness Program Analyst, Bon Secours Health Systems

From developing stages of change within programs, to learning about the new national and local healthcare policies, Abigail Walsh puts theory—and her training from AU’s master’s program—into practice on a daily basis.

Bon Secours, a nonprofit healthcare system in Virginia, has been a great place for Abigail to utilize the communication concepts she learned in the Health Promotion Management Program. Having professors at AU with extensive experience in the health promotion field helped smooth the transition from studies to “real-world” work, she said.

“There is only so much you can learn from a textbook. Having professors with real life experience enables us to see the paths that others have traveled,” Abigail stated. The graduate program work was important because every single class, research paper, and task was directly related to a topic she likely would encounter in her upcoming career.

Now, right in the middle of that “real world” work, Abigail is ardently trying to move the needle on health risk factors that employees across Virginia encounter. As she helps people manage pre-existing conditions, she also keeps preventive healthcare measures at the forefront of her efforts.

“The total savings for the employee and the employer are incredible. Plus, there are some things that can’t be measured on a monetary scale, such as a longer life with an improved quality of living and an increase in productivity at work.”


Brian Katzowitz (Class of 2011)

Title: Health Communications Specialist, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

As a health communications specialist at the CDC, Brian Katzowitz’s background in health promotion management enables him to consider the principles of behavior change theory when determining communication strategies. He uses his health promotion training to interpret scientific manuscripts and translate complex data into relevant information for consumers.

Brian’s job isn’t the run-of-the-mill public relations gig. He fulfills an integral role in public health initiatives.

“On a day-to-day basis, the outcome of my work can be seen when traditional news outlet like the Washington Post or New York Times publish stories featuring CDC spokespeople, new research, or information on disease outbreaks,” Brian said.


Laurie DiRosa (Class of 2000)

Title: Assistant Professor, Rowan University

Laurie DiRosa, a professor of health promotion and wellness, prepares students to go forth and change lifestyle behaviors throughout the world.

Specifically, going through the thesis process at American University continues to influence how Laurie mentors and guides her own students—both undergrads and graduate students—in their research and capstone projects.

“I still pull out my textbooks from AU when I’m helping students or preparing for classes,” Laurie said. “I feel that the rigorous program at AU was one of the guiding forces for me to continue on to doctoral studies.”


Ready to influence healthy lifestyle behaviors?

Learn more about how a master’s degree in health promotion management from American University can help you impact the world and change health behaviors.


Students Learn From Health Promotion Leaders at HERO Forum

Three students at a conferenceConferences come and go. There are thousands of them every year. However, for our students who are attending the annual Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) Forum on Employee Health Management Solutions on Sept. 29 through Oct. 1, it’s not “just another conference.”

For the American University students who are pursuing an MS in Health Promotion Management, the HERO Forum is a rare chance to hear from the type of world-changers they themselves are striving to become—the type of professionals who are helping communities change lifestyle behaviors toward a state of improved health.

In other words, our students view this as part of their life’s work, not just a place to view PowerPoint presentations and nab a few business cards.

AU student Katherine Richards is most excited about the keynote address, “How we are Building a Culture of Health in America.” It will cover the many inter-related factors involved in health and well-being, including “where we live, how we work, the soundness and safety of our surroundings, and the strength and resilience of our families, our communities, and our economy,” according to the event website.

Two students at a confernce“I am anxious to learn how different industries and companies are contributing to create a culture that is centered on wellness,” said Katherine, whose classmate Mara Metroka is particularly interested in a talk by Tanya Gilbert titled “A Health Promotion Consultant on Improving Mental Strength to Promote Weight Loss.”

“I am very passionate about positive self talk and the power of ‘change your mind, change your life,’ so I am looking forward to hearing what she has to say!” Mara said.

Many of the topics Katherine and Mara will be engaged in are quite similar to what they find daily in their AU master’s program in health promotion management. For instance, both the program and the HERO event are fully focused on how various aspects of healthy lifestyle efforts work in unison to create a culture of wellness. Employee health is just one of the many components—but an important one, Katherine said.

“Employers have a wonderful opportunity to encourage their employees and employees’ families to live healthy lives. As a result, both the employee and the employer benefit,” Katherine said. Other key aspects of improved health and well-being include exercise physiology, human biochemistry, behavioral psychology, global health, and nutrition.

HERO’s message of health and performance through employer leadership resonates with Mara, who once spent an overworked, exhausting year working in the hospitality industry.

“The employees I was managing were often sick, or unhealthy—not performing at their top level,” Mara said. “Through this experience I realized the need for a healthy work life balance, and how in so many corporations it is lacking. I want to change that.”

Two students at a conferenceIt would not be unprecedented for an AU graduate program student to make that type of difference. For example, Jennifer Flynn (MS ’97), an AU grad and a HERO Forum speaker this year, is a strategy consultant for Mayo Clinic Global Business Solutions. She went from writing papers to literally helping save lives.

Katherine, Mara, and their peers are making their own strides toward such world-focused success. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s coming. Their presence will be felt. Health and well-being across this world will be revolutionized.



Are you interested a master’s degree in health promotion management? Learn more about the MS program at American University.

Healthy Living Research

Research Shows Link Between Health and Successful Learning

From preschoolers picking out colored pencils to graduate students upgrading their old laptops, back-to-school shopping remains in full swing.

Written by Dr. Anastasia Snelling

It’s an exciting time of year, with plenty of fun items to purchase. It’s also a great opportunity for parents—and students of all ages—to place healthy lunch items and a comfortable pair of shoes for exercise atop their shopping list.

Why is it so important? Long gone is the notion that eating poorly only affects us from the waist down. Now, it’s quite clear—based on both data and anecdotal evidence—that health and learning are intimately linked.

Even with the knowledge that healthy children are better students, we need more student-level research to address the relationship between obesity and learning. It’s an urgent concern for researchers, policymakers, teachers, children, families, and health promotion professionals.

Fortunately, there are encouraging signs that health’s relationship to education is beginning to receive the attention it deserves.


Wellness Policies

Federal legislation that was enacted more than a decade ago has led to relatively new wellness policies—mostly about curbing obesity—at schools throughout the US. The challenge is that the nuances of these policies and their results widely vary. Factors such as nutrition value of cafeteria meals, amount of time devoted to physical education, and cultivation of health-enhancing environments for teachers and students are different at virtually every school.

What is lacking is a deep understanding of the effects of school-by-school health policies at the student level. The more often and thoroughly that we can compare the health consequences of various lifestyles, the better.


Change on the Menu

Lunch hour is being revamped, too. The Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act upgraded nutrition and monitoring standards that are part of the USDA School Lunch Program. Schools are striving to comply by providing new meals that are both tasty and healthy, but parents and students will take some convincing.

The USDA’s Economic Research Service is poised to do just that, particularly through funding for “behavioral economics” studies. The most recent report, released in August, revealed that while the majority of principals and foodservice managers who responded agreed that “Students generally seem to like the new school lunch,” the participation rate for paid school lunches has been on the decline since FY 2008.

It’s a frustrating divide, but it’s not insurmountable. At schools in Arlington, Virginia, and Washington, DC, our research has shown that by engaging students in selecting how vegetables are prepared or pairing a fruit and vegetable, we can increase the consumption of healthful foods.

These are all important findings to consider, but we must be vigilant with continued research and response. The work has only just begun.


Strong Muscles, Thriving Minds

The playground presents another important opportunity to address the whole child—from physical and mental health to academic performance. The recent push by everyone from First Lady Michelle Obama to professional football players to ramp up physical education time among children isn’t just about strong muscles. It’s about healthy, thriving minds.

Now it’s our task to put clear numbers behind those well-known faces. Fortunately, the body of research linking PE time and well-being is growing.

It’s increasingly evident that time is a key factor. In a study titled “Evidence based physical activity for school-age youth” in The Journal of Pediatrics, researchers reviewed more than 850 experimental studies and concluded that additional physical education boosts academic performance, physical fitness level, concentration, memory, classroom behavior, and intellectual performance.

Our own study found a higher rate of math proficiency on Washington, DC’s standardized tests by elementary schools that offer nearly 90 minutes of PE per week. That’s powerful data, and it begs this question: How far could we move the needle if more schools were to increase the amount of gym time?

The good news: There is a sizable appetite for new research on health and student performance and vigilant advocacy to improve the way we serve children.


Interested in a career in health promotion management?

The more passionate health promotion management professionals we can train to lead the way, the better individuals and families will be positioned to thrive for years to come.

Want to get involved in the conversation and make a difference in health and wellness on a larger scale? Learn more about the Health Promotion Management Program at American University.


About The Author


Dr. Anastasia Snelling is a professor and chair of the Department of Health Studies at American University. Her research aims to understand the impact of food policy and programs on health and weight status of students and teachers in the school environment.



6 Cool Health Promotion Organizations You Should Know About

Our students in American University’s master’s degree in health promotion management have a unique opportunity. While learning about the art and science of health promotion from esteemed experts in the field, students also can reap all the resume-building benefits of living in the nation’s capital.

Washington, DC, is awash in meaningful, effective nonprofits that choose true impact over lip service. From internships to volunteerism and full-time job opportunities, AU health promotion graduate students should be aware of these six DC nonprofits that are improving health in this region and way beyond:


Partnership for a Healthy America

Based in DC, Partnership for a Healthier America is leveraging the power of private partners to make healthier choices more affordable and accessible to families and children across the country. Leaders such as Michele Obama, companies such as Nike and Dannon, and nonprofits such as YMCA and Boys and Girls Clubs of America lend exceptional credibility to the organization.

The work is vast and wide-ranging. For example, American University (AU) joined 25 other campuses and PHA for the Healthier Campus Initiative. These schools are adopting new guidelines around nutrition, physical activity and programming for students and staff.


DC Greens & FoodPrints

Dr. Stacey Snelling, director of AU’s Health Promotion Program, works with DC Greens and FoodPrints to infuse six DC-area public schools with fresh fruits and vegetables into school systems.

Actually, it’s a two-pronged approach. DC Greens supplies the food while FoodPrints integrates gardening, cooking, and nutrition education into the curriculum.

The reach of each of these small but substantive organizations goes far beyond this school program—and both have plenty of room for volunteers and interns alike.


A Wider Circle

Mark Bergel, who earned an MS in health promotion management from American University, received the prestigious CNN Hero Award in 2014 for starting A Wider Circle in 2001. The mission is simple but powerful: “to end poverty for one individual and one family after another.” Through various community programs, A Wider Circle provides basic need items, education, and long-term support.

A Wider Circle also is a great source of health promotion internship and job opportunities—for students intrigued by bold, committed work.


National Business Group on Health

The National Business Group on Health, which launched more than 30 years ago, comprises mostly Fortune 500 companies with a clear focus: Provide and promote practical solutions to companies’ most important health care problems.

These companies believe controlling health care costs and improving patient safety and quality of care helps the whole world, not just a few select industries or a certain demographic. They fully understand that health and wellness are vital for individuals, communities and society.


Center for Science in the Public Interest

For more than 40 years, CSPI has been using science and data to advocate for key health-related efforts at the national level—for instance, issues such as soda consumption and the unhealthiness of “kids meals.”

In 2013, CSPI demonstrated that 97 percent of restaurant children’s meals are unhealthy. That alarming statistic led to a campaign urging eateries to improve the nutrition value of these meals and to stop marketing unhealthy food to children.

The Washington, DC, area features some of the most effective health promotion organizations in the US. These groups, which help keep critical needs at the forefront, also serve as abundant learning tools for the health promotion management students at American University.

“The opportunity for research, internships, and hands-on experience that is connected with this graduate program is unmatched,” said Annessa Bontrager, a 2015 MS graduate who already has begun full-time work at Partnership for a Healthy America. The professors in the Health Promotion Management Program have a genuine desire to positively impact the surrounding community, and that is infectious.”

Interested in helping or working for organizations like these?

Read more blog posts and learn how the Health Promotion Management Program at American University prepares students to make a difference.

Wellness and Health Benefits Fair, Dec. 01

Health Promotion Managers Change the World

For many, the components are all there. Deep devotion to health and well-being. Innovative ideas for improving the system. Clear goals rooted in firm ideals.

For people who pursue careers in health promotion management, it takes all these factors together, working in unison, to make a significant difference in the world.

Health promotion management is the convergence of it all. It’s the business, science, and art of helping individuals, communities, and society be healthier.

There are hundreds of backgrounds and experiences that lead people into health promotion management careers. They’re so different, but there’s also a common thread: passion.

Triumph Through Challenge

Passion is evident in the woman who grew up suffering from a disease that forced her to embrace a carefully constructed, health-conscious diet. Now she’s made it her mission to inform people about the relationship between diet, exercise, genetics and chronic illness. She wants to improve lifestyle behaviors for people from all socioeconomic sections of life.

From the Inside Out

It’s easy to see the passion in those who have organizational change in mind. You know the type: wellness cheerleaders who understand that entire companies can improve their employees’ lives through simple, yet powerful, options.

These are the experts who begin change within companies—often starting a decades-long commitment to employee health. The result can be dozens if not hundreds or even thousands of people with better habits and lower risk of serious problems such as heart attacks and diabetes.

Active Business Acumen

Passion drives the guy who struggled with self-confidence until late high school, when he began working out at the local gym. He knows the emotional and health benefits of staying active, and he wants to encourage others to join him. After earning a bachelor’s degree in business, he’s looking to merge his fitness acumen with his professional training.

Shifting Governmental Policies

Helping one person, family or company at a time is much needed, but some people envision and reach toward something broader. They are eager to turn their lofty ideals into prudent, efficient governmental policies and international programs. They realize it will be a long road, but they’re eager to start the journey.

These different types of future leaders are passionate about health promotion because they understand its long-term importance. In other words, they know that health affects everything from a fifth-grader’s academic performance to a Third World country’s economic stability to an elderly person’s quality of life.

Beyond passion, the reason health promotion managers are so well suited to lead the personal health responsibility revolution is that they are so well trained. They are specialists who can implement knowledge from exercise physiology and to behavioral psychology and nutrition.

For many college students, their major or area of emphasis means little more than a ticket to a diploma and a black robe. But for those who pursue a master’s degree in health promotion management, their field of study has potential to shape their lives—and many, many others—every single day.

Interested in American University’s MS in health promotion management program? Learn more today!