From Opioids to COVID to Sex Ed: How Public Health Education Impacts Anchorage

by Div. of Population Health Sciences  |   

University of Alaska Anchorage and Division of Population Health Sciences (DPHS) alumna Jordan Kamer (BS, Health Sciences, ‘17) has a pretty important job. As a public health educator with the Municipality of Anchorage Health Department, she is responsible for providing community education and guidance on public health—everything from COVID-19, to naloxone, to age-appropriate sex education. The department is tasked with the very broad mission of improving the health of all residents in our community, and while it does not directly provide most medical services, it still functions as the backbone of our local public health system.

“A lot of people ask, ‘What is public health?’” Jordan tells us. “As an educator, I generally give people information about their own health and how to find resources in our community for achieving or maintaining wellness. So, from sexual health to unintended pregnancy and healthy relationships to substance misuse, I provide more general education to improve the overall health of multiple people, in contrast to getting individual advice from a doctor or nurse.”

It’s a great example of the kinds of careers available to DPHS graduates. Students with degrees from DHPS programs can work in a variety of fields, from nutrition to community health aids, to—like Jordan—public health educators.

Jordan will sometimes travel to medical providers or community health organizations, where she helps train personnel on naloxone use and its effectiveness, as well as answer questions to help ensure personnel retain that knowledge. Naloxone is an important tool in the ongoing opioid epidemic: it prevents overdoses and can help people struggling with substance misuse in their recovery. There is an art to what she does and she puts a lot of thought into making her education programs effective.

“You’re teaching them about something, but hoping to make it memorable enough that they’re going to remember the key points,” she says. “So, I make it interactive, hoping that they leave having learned something that they can either use themselves or disseminate to other people.”

Jordan worked full time as a medical assistant while going to school, so it took her five years to graduate with a Bachelor of Health Sciences degree on the health educator track. She has discovered that her UAA education has been directly applicable to her job.

“I didn’t realize at the time that many of the things I was doing in school, I would end up using in my professional life,” she tells us. “Such as health promotion, putting together presentations based on behavioral health practices, writing lengthy papers based on grant reporting, basic anatomy, biology and physiology.”

The education Jordan experienced with DPHS went beyond the classroom with hands-on experience helping a health organization in the real world, when her class was asked to assess a child health services provider and provide recommendations for raising public awareness and bringing in more patients.

“I chose UAA because I was born and raised in Alaska, and I wanted to stay close to my folks,” Jordan says. “My parents saved all my Permanent Fund Dividends so I could go to college. Being near family and knowing it was a big enough campus with enough degree programs that I could not feel constrained. I liked having all the options UAA offers.”

DPHS programs provide education, career opportunities, and community partnerships at the intersection of medicine and public health across the social sciences. If you’re interested in building healthier communities, learn more about our programs.