Credentialing is the process by which the qualifications of licensed professionals, organizational members or an organization are determined by assessing the individuals or group background and legitimacy through a standardized process. Accreditation, licensure, or certifications are all forms of credentialing.
In 1978, Helen Cleary, the president of the Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE) started the process of certification of health educators. Prior to this, there was no certification for individual health educators, with exception to the licensing for school health educators. The only accreditation available in this field was for school health and public health professional preparation programs.
Her initial response was to incorporate experts in the field and to promote funding for the process. The director if the Division of Associated Health Professions in the Bureau of Health Manpower of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Thomas Hatch, became interested in the project. To ensure that the commonalities between health educators across the spectrum of professions would be sufficient enough to create a set of standards, Dr. Cleary spent a great amount of time to create the first conference called the Bethesda Conference. In attendance were interested professionals who covered the possibility of creating credentialing within the profession.
With the success of the conference and the consensus that the standardization of the profession was vital, those who organized the conference created the National Task Force in the Preparation and Practice of Health Educators. Funding for this endeavor became available in January 1979, and role delineation became a realistic vision for the future. They presented the framework for the system in 1981 and published entry-level criteria in 1983. Seven areas of responsibility, 29 areas of competency and 79 sub-competencies were required of health education professionals for approximately 20 years for entry-level educators.
In 1986 a second conference was held in Bethesda, Maryland to further the credentialing process. In June 1988, the National Task Force in the Preparation and Practice of Health Educators became the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, Inc. (NCHEC). Their mission was to improve development of the field by promoting, preparing and certifying health education specialists. The NCHEC has three division boards that included preparation, professional development and certification of health educator professionals. The third board, which is called the Division Board of Certification of Health Education Specialist (DBCHES), has the responsibility of developing and administering the CHES exam. An initial certification process allowed 1,558 individuals to be chartered into the program through a recommendation and application process. The first exam was given in 1990.
In order for a candidate to sit for an exam they must have either a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree from an accredited institution, and an official transcript that shows a major in health education, Community Health Education, Public Health Education, or School Health Education, etc. The transcript will be accepted if it reflects 25 semester hours or 37 quarter hours in health education preparation and covers the 7 responsibilities covered in the framework.
In 1998 a project called the Competencies Update Project (CUP) began. The purpose of the CUP project was to up-date entry-level requirements and to develop advanced-level competences. Through research the CUP project created the requirements for three levels, which included entry-level, Advanced I and Advanced II educators.
Recently the Master Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES) is in the process of being created. It is an exam that will measure the knowledge of the advanced levels and sub levels of the Seven Areas of Responsibilities. The first MCHES exam is expected to be given in October 2011.
In order to be eligible to take the MCHES exam you must have at least a Master's degree in health education or related discipline along with a least 25 credit hours related to health education. In addition, five years of documented information of practice in health education and two recommendations of past/present supervisors must be provided. A vitae/resume must also be submitted.
The Competency Update Project (CUP), 1998-2004 revealed that there were higher levels of health education practitioners, which is the reasoning for the advancements for the MCHES. Many health educators felt that the current CHES credential was an entry-level exam.
There will be exceptions made for those who have the Certification of Health Education Specialist, that have been active for several consecutive years. They will be required to participate in the MCHES Experience Documentation Opportunity that will omit them from taking the exam