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Monday, October 25, 2021
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Badger water bottles sit next to an iced drink in the UW-Madison Education Building.

STEM Major Spotlight: Health Promotion and Health Equity

Interested in the medical field but not sure about med school, or not enthusiastic about taking lots of physics and math? You should consider majoring in Health Promotion and Health Equity. HPHE student Jordan Gao gave us the details of this fascinating field of study. 

To an outsider, HPHE may seem no different from the vast span of other medically-minded majors, but Gao explained what sets them apart. 

“I feel like a lot of medical majors are a lot more focused on research...HPHE covers that, but it’s set apart because it focuses on outreach, on day-to-day ways people can improve their wellbeing. It’s very hands-on,” she said.

Students who graduate with a degree in HPHE can go into the field right away, with no need for a lengthy study at med school followed by a residency. This major is within the Kinesiology department in the School of Education, a placement that correlates directly with its goals. Kinesiology, as a department, focuses on health education. 

“We’re not so much focused on science and research as we are on education — teaching the general public about available resources,” Gao said. “Academia and research can be hard to break into, it’s inaccessible.” 

HPHE majors can choose a variety of elective specialties. Gao chose “Social Determinants of Health,” which explores how identity can affect wellbeing. “As a queer POC living in suburban Wisconsin, I grew up very cognizant of how socioeconomic disparities that come with being a minority are super evident in the system and directly impact access to healthcare, mental health resources or even community resources like a gym,” she explained.

HPHE majors have a variety of career options in hospitals, clinics and nonprofits. There are also federal positions available. In the short term, Gao is interested in working as an EMT. In the long-term, she’d like to get involved in outreach programs and create better infrastructure for marginalized communities to get access to healthcare. 

Gao emphasized that she personally wants to work in a lower-income community rather than an affluent area. 

“I feel like the general idea is that low-income areas are high crime, poverty ridden places and that the healthcare workers there receive low pay for a very demanding job, and that’s just not true,” Gao said. “These places need healthcare workers.” 

Those interested in HPHE can consult the undergraduate guide for an overview of the requirements: https://guide.wisc.edu/undergraduate/education/kinesiology/health-promo-health-equity-bs/#text.

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