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Department of Health Studies

Offering programs in health promotion, nutrition education, and public health.

Department of Health Studies

The mission of the Department of Health Studies (DHS) is to educate and empower future leaders in the field to improve the health status and wellbeing of individuals, communities, organizations, and societies. This mission is achieved through innovative education, transformational research, creative partnerships, and policy-change advocacy. Health issues are of universal interest and relevance, transcending the boundaries of race, religion, culture and national origin.

Degree Programs & Careers

Our graduates put their expertise to work promoting health outcomes, policy, and research locally, nationally, and globally. Here are just a few recent examples of alums' career paths:

  • Research Associate at National Institute of Health
  • Nutrition Educator at Maryland Snap-Ed
  • Program Associate at Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids
  • Wellness Coordinator at NFL Players Association
  • Assistant Fitness Director at Sport & Health
  • Health Communications Specialist at USAID
  • Senior Director, Customer Engagement at Cigna
  • Research Associate at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research
  • Lifestyle Educator at Kaiser Permanente
  • Education Specialist at the Capitol Area Food Bank

Faculty Experts’ Corner: Stacey Snelling

Chair of health studies, Stacey Snelling talks about how her department has transitioned to active and engaging online learning, while engaging with students and serving many communities in Washington, DC, from teachers to healthcare workers.


  • Stacey Snelling is part of the team of researchers recently awarded a five-year, $15 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) titled "Multiscale Resilient, Equitable, and Circular Innovations with Partnership and Education Synergies (RECIPES) for Sustainable Food Systems.”
  • Anthony Panzera received a $95,739 grant from the District of Columbia Department of Health, sponsored by the US Department of Agriculture – WIC Telehealth Evaluation Collaborative, for the “THIS-WIC Telehealth Project.”
  • See more Health Studies News.


Community garden in Baltimore, one of the cities where research will be conducted

Announcement ·

American University, CAS Faculty Lead NSF-Funded National Research Network to Address the Challenge of Reducing Wasted Food

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Health Studies Prof. Ethan Mereish runs the Lavender Lab on AU's campus.

Study Links Youth Emotional Distress, Stigma Around Sexual Orientation

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Students Share Their Lessons from Fall 2020

We asked some public health seniors what they learned from learning during a pandemic. They share their takeaways from living through a pandemic and learning in a remote environment. These lessons may help all of us be successful during the spring semester of 2021.

This pandemic has reminded me that I wake up every day with a decision of what to put out into the world. Sacrifice has become commonplace among all of us, but so has selflessness. I have seen more acts of genuine altruism in the past year than I’ve probably seen in my entire life. And on the other hand, I’ve seen more tragedy in the past year than I can add up over my lifetime. Everyone is hurting in some way. So when I am faced with this choice of what I can put out into the world, I need to choose kindness every single day. All of us do.

The pandemic has taught me the importance of staying true to yourself. No matter how hard you try to plan your future, something unexpected may change the course of events. Staying true to yourself and keeping your core values at the forefront of your mind will help you persevere through the greatest challenges, proving to yourself all that you are capable of.

The most profound experiences I had showed the unity and resilience within my social circles - we are stronger together. COVID-19 has been a call to action to critically reflect on social determinants of health and improve how we think about populations and systems of care. This pandemic lays the groundwork for health professionals to think about health outside a strictly medical standpoint.

I have recognized that cleanliness can be taken for granted. Yet, in my opinion, the collective effort to minimize the spread of the virus, has heightened the proactivity and awareness to both personal and public hygiene, increasing hypervigilance toward cleanliness. I believe this focus on improving hygiene to be critical to maintaining beyond the pandemic.

Resilience has been one of my biggest takeaways from the pandemic. Whether you are a frontline healthcare worker or a student transitioning to online classes, everyone had to persevere through the pressure. This experience taught me to always be adaptable and ready to rise to any challenge.

COVID-19 highlighted the best tool we have is empathy. What we owe to each other, even during the toughest moments is understanding that people deserve care across every challenge. It exposed that the mentors, professors, and peers I admire most were those most willing to extend empathy to our community. And that is something to cherish regardless of circumstances.

Some lessons I have learned from attending my last college year at AU online are starting to put my health first and setting boundaries between work and school since things are online now and can become a little overwhelming. So adjusting for the upcoming semester and doing more self-care, working but not as much as I would in-person, and talking to my professors and staff that I trust about issues and approaching them in the best way. Lastly, not stressing myself out too much about post-graduation and what will happen next and understanding that the Class of 2020/2021 are graduating during an insane time in this country. These things are out of my control, but I can control my personal life to improve my health and overall well-being.

27 Number of grants awarded to our department to promote health in Washington, DC

126 Students, faculty, staff, and volunteers working with us

69 Number of publications, reports, and presentations to disseminate this work