Park in Autumn

3 Reasons Why Washington, DC is the Fittest City in U.S.

No city’s journey toward healthier, happier residents is ever complete, but the District seems to be moving in the right direction. This metro area with a population of more than six million has been recognized by the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) American Fitness Index as the fittest city in the U.S. multiple times, and it retained that title in 2016.

Taking into account a variety of health indicators and community resources, the American Fitness Index (AFI) aims to help communities identify and expand opportunities to foster healthy lifestyles. According to the AFI findings, Washington, DC, is outpacing the ACSM’s target goals in several key areas, including:

Percentage of people who smoke

  • Washington, D.C.: 12.6 percent
  • AFI Target Goal: 13.1 percent

Death rate due to diabetes, per 100,000 people

  • Washington, D.C.: 146.8
  • AFI Target Goal: 167.1

Percentage of people who bicycle or walk to work

  • Washington, D.C.: 3.9 percent
  • AFI Target Goal: 2.8 percent

For those who are interested in improving health and well-being, DC is overflowing with opportunities. Here are three reasons why we think the District landed on the list of fittest cities in the country:


Access to Parks and Other Fitness Opportunities

Is it any surprise that an area so full of parks also is a bastion for exercise? Consider these statistics about our park system:

Parkland as a percentage of city land area

  • Washington, D.C.: 21.9 percent
  • AFI Target Goal: 10.6 percent

Percentage of people with a 10-minute walk to a park

  • Washington, D.C.: 96.3 percent
  • AFI Target Goal: 63.8 percent

Total park expenditure per resident

  • Washington, D.C.: $346
  • AFI Target Goal: $101.80

The DC metro area is an incredibly popular place to hold festivals, conferences and events that are conducive to foot traffic. We boast an average of 28.5 farmer’ markets per 1 million people, compared to the AFI’s target goal of 13.1 per 1 million people.


Comfortable Climate

One of the reasons that parks, rec centers, public pools and walking trails are so prevalent and popular here is that they are easy to use for a large portion of the year. The city has a desirable climate with comfortable summers, relatively mild winters, and comfortable springs and falls. The average humidity is relatively manageable, too (just slightly more humid than the national average).

Our fitness-friendly climate and array of outdoor opportunities and indoor museums foster a cultural in which biking and walking are common and beloved.


Well-Educated People

Washington, DC, also has been ranked one of the five most educated cities, which likely is a key factor in our high level of fitness. The study, performed by WalletHub, takes into account percentage of adult residents and variety of demographic indicators. Many studies suggest that education levels often are linked to things such as income, healthcare coverage and fitness.

These factors and many more have Washington, DC, on a path to better fitness, improved health, longer lives and enhanced quality of life.


If you are passionate about improving community health, fitness and wellness, consider a master’s degree in Health Program Management at American University.

HPM Speaker

How to Land Your Dream Job in Health and Fitness

At its core, health promotion is about helping individuals and groups implement lifestyle habits that improve health and well-being. One of the best ways to affect change in the field is for talented, passionate professionals to find roles that allow them to thrive, motivate and lead.

Here are three qualities that can help you land your dream job in health and fitness, based on feedback from successful alumni of American University’s Health Promotion Management graduate program:


  1. Cultivate Your Communication Skills

“Having an open line of communication both internally and with clients has been huge for the success of the programs, campaigns and projects I’ve worked on over the years,” said Ari Klenicki, director of Screening Services at Wellness Corporate Solutions, LLC. He earned his master’s degree in HPM from AU in 2012.

Without the ability to effectively communicate, even the most impressive, potentially world-altering initiative could go unnoticed. When you have the skills to help people understand what an organization or service actually does to improve health or why that health information is important to them, employers notice.


  1. Be Able to Adapt

Do you learn from your mistakes? Are you flexible enough to adjust to the constantly changing world in which you live, work and play? How do you react when well-laid plans go awry?

Adaptability is a skill that will set you apart from those who can’t or won’t cope when unexpected circumstances arise.

“You need to be able to make real-time adjustments to projects and tasks, and understand that life happens,” Klenicki said. “I used to sour at the idea of changing a process that seemed to work, but it turns out that when you listen and open up to new ideas, often they end up working out well.”


  1. Leverage Your Foundation of Skills and Knowledge

In our HPM master’s program, every course is designed to be applicable in each of our student’s careers. In fact, we hear frequently statements like, “This program provided me with transferrable skills I can use at work every day. Examples include:

  • Researching topics that you don’t know much about — and becoming an expert
  • Developing ways to frame an issue for advocacy
  • Writing detailed papers that can affect change in communities, states and even countries

Communication, adaptability and a base of skills and knowledge are three important components of landing your dream job in health and fitness.


If you’re excited about finding a dream job in health and fitness, learn what it takes to earn a Master of Science in Health Program Management at American University.


DC Capitol

4 Health Promotion Management Alumni You Should Know

Factors such as curriculum, faculty and location are key variables that help differentiate between a good master’s degree program and a great one. However, one of the more underrated aspects of graduate work is who you know.

Meeting alumni from your university is important not only because of how valuable a close-knit network of professional friends can be during a job search, but because students can learn from others’ missteps and triumphs. In a sense, successful alumni serve as templates that students can follow for years to come.

Here are some health promotion management (HPM) alumni whom current American University HPM students should know:


Megan Hammes, Class of 2004

Megan HammesIn 13 years as manager and now interim director of University of Iowa UI Wellness and its LiveWELL Program, Megan Hammes has had the opportunity to develop, implement and evaluate wellness programming for approximately 18,000 faculty and staff. It’s an investment of time, energy and passion that was shaped, at least in part, by a wealth of learning and experiences from AU’s master’s in Health Promotion Management Program.

“I obtained a lot of practical, hands-on experience during my time at AU,” said Hammes, who has poured her knowledge, talent and training into a program that won UI a 2015 C. Everett Koop National Health Award (Honorable Mention) for outstanding worksite health promotion and improvement programs. In four years, LiveWELL helped increase the percentage of faculty and staff who have “good nutrition” from 50 percent in 2011 to 68 percent in 2016.

“In our field … we often need to explain and articulate in lots of creative ways to make linkages for leaders as to how improved health equals improved culture and performance, which ultimately dictates how well the company is performing,” Hammes said.

She encourages current students to embrace the many advantages of the program in the heart of Washington DC.

“The DC area was just fantastic for having easy access to experts and professionals, and I valued that a lot. Today, I continue to have contact with my former classmates and people who I met during my tenure at AU that have proven to be a very powerful professional network.”


Madeline Fromm, Class of 2013

Madeline FrommBefore earning a MS degree in health promotion management at AU in 2013, Madeline Fromm worked in Megan Hammes’ office (see above) at the University of Iowa, where she had previously received her bachelor’s degree in health sciences. Madeline is proof that a career path doesn’t have to move slowly.

Madeline began as a public policy specialist for the American Council on Exercise in 2013 and quickly was promoted to engagement program manager earlier this year. Her graduate coursework, along with an array of experiences in DC, helped prepare her for the type of research, analysis, reporting, planning, presentations, communication, education and advocacy she now is responsible for on a regular basis.


Cathy Turner, Class of 1990

After 26 years with Virginia Hospital Center—today serving as director of health promotion and senior health—one could excuse Cathy Turner if her passion for health and wellness had plateaued. However, Turner insists she still loves her role.

“There is no better feeling than when someone tells you that if they had not come to the health fair they would have never known they were diabetic, or because of their screening they made lifestyle changes and it changed their life,” she said.

Turner completed a master’s in health fitness management at AU in 1990, seizing as many opportunities as she could grab along the way.

“One of the most valuable aspects of the program was the opportunity to get practical experience while working at USPS Fitness Center, which was a contract AU’s health promotion program had,” Turner said.


Kelly Serwer, Class of 2009

Kelly SerwerKelly Serwer, who earned her MS in HPM in 2009, has built a career in wellness — a career that began at the university level. She transitioned from her bachelor’s program in exercise science at Ithaca College to AU, then immediately entered the workforce as a fitness services manager.

Since then, Kelly has been a program manager and wellness coordinator at a few organizations, and she has been a certified Zumba instructor for nearly six years. Today she is a wellness specialist at CRSA Inc., where she continues to show that education, preparation and networking really do matter.



Are you looking for the right combination of curriculum, networking and community opportunities along your path to a career in health promotion? Learn more about American University’s MS in Health Promotion Management Program.


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.

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.