Public Health

Public health is the work a society does to protect and improve the health of individuals, families, communities, and populations, locally and globally.  Public health education prepares students to enter the public health workforce, which focuses on preventing disease and injury by promoting healthy lifestyles.  Public health professionals implement educational programs, develop policies, administer services, conduct research, and regulate health systems to achieve these goals.

Community Health Worker (CHWC)

Community Health Workers (CHWs) teach people how to live healthy lives and how to avoid costly diseases and medical procedures.  They also help people who may already have a chronic disease (such as asthma or diabetes) manage their diseases in order to avoid unnecessary trips to the emergency room.  CHWs perform activities to promote, support, and protect the health of individuals, families and communities.

The Community Health Worker Certificate (CHWC) Program includes education in the Core Competencies and Essential Health Topics for Community Health Workers recognized by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.  The CHW curriculum fosters students’ development of communication and interviewing skills and provides them with the practical tools needed to access health information, conduct health education and promotion, assist with disease prevention and maintenance, make referrals, coordinate services, and assist clients and communities to navigate the health system.

The CHWC curriculum culminates with a practicum that offers students an opportunity to learn in a work setting while obtaining practical experience in community health work.  This experience can be applied to hours needed to qualify for state certification. 

Year 1
PHE 101Core Competencies for the Community Health Worker 3
PHE 105Essential Health Topics for Community Health Workers 3
EOA 106Keyboarding 3
BUS 112Introduction To Customer Relations 3
ENG 101College Writing I 3
HST 140Counseling Methods And Interviewing Techniques 3
PHE 110Intro to Public Health 3
PSY 143Group Dynamics 3
PHE 250Practicum for Community Health Workers 4
 Total Credits: 28

Click here for program student learning outcomes and technical standards.


This program is offered at the Gardner and Fitchburg campuses.

Helpful Hints

Volunteer opportunities, service learning, and civic engagement components are suggested as ways of enhancing classroom learning.  Technology is integrated into all aspects of attending college in the 21st Century. Students are expected to have proficient computer skills and the ability to access the internet via desktop/laptop computer or tablet. Internet access may be from home or through a public site such as a local public library, public college or at any Mount Wachusett Community College campuses.

Transfer Options

Students can consider applying to an Associate of Science in Public Health program after completion of this certificate.

Career options/Earning potential:

For career options, please click here.

Special requirements

Technical standards must be met with or without accommodations.  Students  may be subject to meeting additional requirements which may include: immunizations; liability insurance, health insurance, CPR certification, a Criminal/Sexual Offender Records Information (CORI/SORI); fingerprinting and drug testing. Some of these may be done at the student’s expense.

Gainful Employment Program Disclosure Information

For gainful employment information, please click here.

Program Student Learning Outcomes for CHWC

Upon graduation from this program, students shall have demonstrated the ability to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of the historical development of human services as a profession and the implications of social policy.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the major models of causation of normal and abnormal development and the conditions which promote or limit optimal functioning.
  • Develop and demonstrate effective intervention strategies that include counseling and interviewing skills, assessment, advocacy, outreach, and referral.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the formal and informal supports, resources available in the community, and skill in gaining access to them.
  • Demonstrate an awareness of one’s individual strengths, attitudes, values, and belief systems on both a personal and professional level.
  • Develop and demonstrate the oral and written skills required for an effective communicator.
  • Develop an awareness of cultural diversity and a working knowledge of, and respect for, peoples’ history, traditions, values, and social organizations such as family, community, and political structures.
  • Exercise professional ethics in all matters related to the helping relationship and the workplace.

Technical Standards1 for CHWC

Students entering these programs must be able to demonstrate the ability to:

  • Comprehend textbook material at the 11th grade level.
  • Communicate information either in spoken, printed, signed, or computer voice format.
  • Gather, analyze, and draw conclusions from data.
  • Comprehend the spoken word. Perceive and differentiate individual behaviors.
  • Perceive and differentiate individual behaviors.
  • Maintain cleanliness and personal grooming consistent with close personal contact.
  • Exhibit social skills appropriate to professional interactions.

For general information about technical standards and accommodation, see Technical Standards.


PHE 101. Core Competencies for the Community Health Worker. 3 Credits.

This course is designed for students who are working toward a Community Health Worker Certificate. Students will be introduced to community health concepts, and resources and skills related to the role and responsibilities of a Community Health Worker, including: linking individuals and families to needed health services, public health agencies, and human services; playing a key role in increasing access to health care; and eliminating health disparities among vulnerable and underserved communities. Students will learn about the Core Competencies for Community Health Workers as established by the the Board of Certification of Community Health Workers. Prerequisites: ENG 098, FYE 101, RDG 098 or placement. Fall.

PHE 105. Essential Health Topics for Community Health Workers. 3 Credits.

This course provides students with an understanding of common mental and behavioral health issues and chronic diseases that they are likely to encounter as Community Health Workers (CHWs). Students will learn about the often complex health and social conditions of community members through the use of case studies, interactive exercises, and group discussion. The role of CHWs in prevention, treatment and care will also be examined. Topics will include mental/behavioral health, violence, substance abuse, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, weight management, asthma, and assessing the home environment. Staying positive and preventing vicarious trauma will also be explored. Prerequisites: ENG 098, FYE 101, RDG 098 or placement. Fall.

PHE 110. Intro to Public Health. 3 Credits.

This course provides an introduction to the core components of public health and public health practice, including an emphasis on population and prevention-based strategies for improving health. This course presents an overview of the field of public health, including historical and contemporary perspectives on major health problems; social, behavioral, and environmental factors affecting health; key players within the public health system and how they work together to implement effective public health practice, highlighting the role of disease detection and management (epidemiology), health communication and strategies for evaluating these practices. The course will also cover methods for addressing non-communicable diseases, communicable diseases, environmental diseases, injuries, and disaster preparedness. Theoretical and practical perspectives of this course will provide contemporary strategies for health promotion and disease prevention at local, state, and national levels. Prerequisites: ENG 101. Spring.

PHE 250. Practicum for Community Health Workers. 4 Credits.

This 4-credit class offers students an opportunity to learn in a work setting while obtaining practical experience in community health work (CHW). Students will contract for a minimum of 125 hours at an internship placement and participate in a weekly seminar to discuss their fieldwork and apply academic theory to practice. Students will work in settings that familiarize them with concrete examples of the core competencies of CHWs studied in PHE 100 and in class through readings and discussions. Students will also gain an understanding of industry and organizational structures, cultures, and ethics; and will strengthen their critical thinking, research, and problem-solving skills. They will keep logs of their activities and complete other written assignments for class. Students will be able to apply these hours towards the required hours of work experience for state certification. Prerequisites: PHE 101, PHE 105, PHE 110 (or corequisite), ENG 101, EOA 106, BUS 112, PSY 143 (or corequisite), HST 140 (or corequisite). Spring.