Pandemic shines new light on the importance of Health Promotion | Jennifer Best

Jennifer Best smiles in a headshot photo with garden of the gods behind her.
Jennifer Best smiles in a headshot photo with garden of the gods behind her.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Jennifer Best has always cared about health. Her dedication to the field drew her interest in the UCCS Master of Science in Health Promotion program in 2011. Now, less than ten years later, the global COVID-19 pandemic shines new importance on her health-related role.

Best may always have been destined for a career in the health, knowing she had been drawn to the field dating back to her involvement in high school athletics. Athletics drew her to a Bachelor’s degree in health promotion as she continued her athletic career at her undergraduate school. Upon graduating, she quickly found a career as a personal trainer to help improve overall wellness among athletes and non-athletes. 

“I knew I wanted to help other people succeed, and really see the importance of how eating healthy and exercising impacts every aspect of their lives,” Best said.

For Best, this degree program proved the perfect choice for elevating her expertise. The focus on research-based theories and applications, as well as leadership skills added to her repertoire during her studies. 

Best’s passion grew over time and led to her interest in promoting health on a larger scale. Best became compelled to advance her career to the next level by earning a graduate degree. After her husband Brian earned his Bachelor of Geography from UCCS, Best knew the value of a University of Colorado degree. The respected Master of Health Promotion program soon had another student.

Right away the program helped Best prepare for a more rewarding career in Health Promotion.

“I really just wanted to advance myself personally and my education by getting a Master’s Degree,” Best explained. “I think it’s given me confidence in myself — that I know what I’m talking about.”

With reinforced confidence in herself, Best applied for a position leading the El Paso County Corporate Wellness Center and eventually managed it for five years, overseeing programs and facilities from the fitness room, nutrition programs, fitness classes, and one-on-one training. 

Through career connections, Best transitioned to a role in the El Paso County Health Department in 2017 as a Prevention and Policy Specialist within the Tobacco Education and Prevention Partnership. Using her graduate skills, she applied her skills in the fight against teen tobacco use in local schools by gathering and presenting eye-opening information. 

“Evidence-based information is so important and should be driving our work,” Best says. 

Best said one monumental challenge is “out-of-control vaping” among teens. According to Healthy Kids Colorado Survey data collected between 2017-2018, 44 percent of youths in El Paso County had tried an e-cigarette device and 27 percent of all youths in Colorado, nearly twice the national average, stated they used vapes. 

To Best, this type of dramatic data makes a deeper impact on young audiences and helps promote better health knowledge. Best recalls one presentation where she and her team used data that immediately had a beneficial effect on at-risk students. 

“The students came up and said, ‘I think I want to quit right now. I learned so much information yesterday that I didn’t know. I want quitting resources,’” Best said.

It feels good to affect someone’s life by sharing the correct information with them.” 

Best is grateful that her Master’s degree gave her invaluable research capabilities. Since the start of COVID-19, Best has been unable to present in schools and has instead been tasked in El Paso County with assisting in tracking the virus through dedicated outreach.

“We are trying to stop the spread of the virus in our community by connecting with each individual that tests positive and reaching out to their contacts, as well,” Best explains.

Best’s education has helped with this challenging process by giving her the ability to build quick rapport with research subjects and draw out useful information. As a health professional, she thinks that the best way to counter the virus is by following facts.

“I hope people continue to listen to the Center for Disease Control and make sure they are not just believing anything they read, but are looking at medically-based research.” 

Despite the challenges the county is facing, Best said her Master in Health Promotion has allowed her to seamlessly transition from one health challenge to another, and she’s thrilled to be working towards solutions.

“In order to succeed in a career, you really have to have a love for what you’re doing,” Best said. “For me, that aspect of helping people improve their lives — that’s what drove me towards Health Promotion.”

The UCCS Success Stories series aims to highlight an array of graduates from the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. Do you know of someone we should feature? Submit a nomination here.

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