Meet Keshana O.

Community Health Navigation faculty

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“You have to be able to meet people where they are, have a passion to serve and be a problem solver.”

It’s a new degree and a new career field, so what exactly is community health navigation?

“Community health navigation really focus on addressing a person’s holistic needs and not just physical health,” said faculty member Keshana Owens-Cody, who teaches several of the courses in the program. “We primarily focus on addressing the barriers to care - housing, food insecurity issues. We are there to help navigate through a person’s health needs on top of other social needs at the same time.”

Keshana, who came to the field after studying criminal justice, said navigators (sometimes also called community health workers) are primed to be big part of the way health care and social services are linking up for the benefit of patients. Without a doubt, she said, the Capital Region needs navigators.

“Employers can be primary care offices, they can be community-based organizations who are looking for someone with a public health background. Our degree and certificate programs can provide education for an entry-level position,” she said. “This program sets you up to learn not only traditional human services but you learn about public health which gets to the root of many health concerns. Students study chronic disease, substance abuse, population health and how environments can be viewed as a barrier to accessing care. You’re starting with a base of knowledge that employers are looking for right now.”

What’s also key about Hudson Valley’s Community Health Navigation program is that it can provide a path to a career but also a stepping stone to further education. “Graduates might go into social welfare or social work. They might go into public health. A lot of my students enter careers right from their internship,” she said. “They get that experience and then decide to move in a certain direction with their career that may require more education.”

Keshana said the field of community health navigation is looking for navigators who can empathize and understand the struggles of those in their own community. “They are looking for someone relatable. You have to be able to meet people where they are, have a passion to serve and be a problem solver.”