Guest blogger, author, and editor of the Essential Public Health Series, Richard Riegelman MD, MPH, PhD, writes about the emerging career field known as “Health Navigator.”
On July 4, the Washington Post featured a front page article, “Navigators’ for cancer patients: A nice perk or something more?” Perhaps the Post recognized that health navigators can provide “independence day” for patients with serious disease. The article and the comments provided numerous testimonials recognizing the “godsend” that health navigators can be for cancer patients. They also indicated that health navigators are being shown to be cost-effective at least for poorer patients.
The Post article focused on patient navigators for cancer patients. It suggested that the jury is still out on the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of these health navigators. To understand the issues raised by the Post’s article, it is key to recognize that in the past most health navigators were trained on-the-job. This has been the case for community health workers, patient navigators, as well as health insurance navigators.
The Community Colleges and Public Health report produced by the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health and the League for Innovation in the Community Colleges recommended Health Navigator associate degree and academic certificate programs. These 30 semester credit hour programs are recommended to encourage the education of a new group of health professionals. It is expected that these health navigation professionals, when integrated into the health system, can improve health outcomes and reduce costs.
Health navigation education is designed not only to prepare cancer patient navigators but to prepare graduates for a range of roles in the health system including job titles such as community health worker, patient navigator, health insurance navigator plus as many as 30 other job titles being used across the country. Regardless of the job title, to be effective, health navigation education needs to prepare graduates with the knowledge and skills needed to function effectively as part of the health team.
To accomplish this goal the Community Colleges and Public Health report recommended the following 30 semester credit curriculum for all health navigator associate degrees and academic certificate programs:
Public Health Foundations and Core
- Public Health Overview
- Health Communications
- Personal Health with a Population Perspective
Health Navigation Required Courses
- Prevention and Community Health
- Health Care Delivery
- Health Insurance
- Accessing and Analyzing Health Information
Experiential Learning and Electives
The League for Innovation in the Community Colleges has distributed the Community Colleges and Public Health report to all 1100+ community colleges and has developed a “call for planning” encouraging community colleges to develop health navigator programs consistent with the report. For a copy of the full report and more information on health navigation education see www.league.org/ccph/.
Jones & Bartlett Learning has responded to the growth and importance of health navigation education by developing a new Health Navigation textbook series. This four-book series as well as other Jones & Bartlett Learning textbooks will provide the full range of texts needed to fulfill the health navigation recommendations of the Community Colleges and Public Health report. Principles of Health Navigation by Kay Perrin, the first book in the series, will be published in time for use in fall 2016 courses.
In addition, existing texts such as Public Health 101 and forthcoming texts on health communications and personal health with a population perspective will provide excellent texts for teaching the Public Health Foundations and Core courses in community colleges and career schools. A range of textbooks included in the Jones & Bartlett Learning Essential Public Health series can be used as part of public health & health navigation associate degrees and academic certificate programs. To learn more, visit www.essentialpublichealth.com.
The four-book The Jones & Bartlett Learning Health Navigation Series will include Navigating the U.S. Health System, Navigating Health Insurance, and Navigating Community and Consumer Health. More information will be available this fall.
About the author:
Richard K. Riegelman, MD, MPH, PhD is Professor of Epidemiology-Biostatistics, Medicine, and Health Policy, and Founding Dean of the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services in Washington, DC. His education includes an M.D. from the University of Wisconsin plus a M.P.H. and Ph.D. in Epidemiology from Johns Hopkins. Dr. Riegelman practiced primary care internal medicine for over 20 years.
Dr. Riegelman has over 70 publications including 6 books for students and practitioners of medicine and public health. He is currently editor of the Jones & Bartlett Learning book series Essential Public Health. The series provides books and ancillary materials for the full spectrum of curricula for undergraduate public health as well as the core and cross-cutting competencies covered by the Certification in Public Health examination of the National Board of Public Health Examiners. He has taken a lead role in developing the Educated Citizen and Public Health initiative which has brought together arts and sciences and public health education associations to implement the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies recommendation that “…all undergraduates should have access to education in public health.” Dr. Riegelman also led the development of George Washington’s undergraduate major and minor and currently teaches “Public Health 101” and “Epidemiology 101” to undergraduates.
Would you like to learn more about the Health Navigator field? Read Understanding the Health Navigator and Health Navigators: Characteristics Through Internships from guest blogger, Kay Perrin, PhD, MPH.