Public Health alumna encourages active lifestyles for next generation

When Rebekah West applied to become a member of the charter class of the public health program at Campbell University’s College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences, she knew she wanted to make a difference in the community. Three semesters after enrolling, West had completed all of the coursework required for the degree and landed her first job in public health.


West graduated with her master of science in public health in December 2013 and promptly went to work for Active Routes to School, a North Carolina Safe Routes to School project. Active Routes to School is a partnership between the North Carolina Division of Public Health and the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), and it is funded by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. Through Active Routes to School, West oversees Region 6 of the North Carolina Public School System which includes: Anson, Cumberland, Harnett, Hoke, Lee, Montgomery, Moore, Richmond, and Scotland counties.


She returned to her alma mater in late October to lead a seminar for current public health students on how she uses her degree in the workplace. She explained that her job is to create a culture that encourages activity on a daily basis for elementary and middle school children. She does this by hosting events where students can walk or bike together as a  group to school and by working with the NCDOT to provide safer routes for children and their guardians to use as a method of active transportation to school.


“Essentially, the day-to-day activities of my job are to encourage students to take responsibility for their own health,” said West to the first-year public health students.


In the ten months she has been working for the program, West has increased the participation in Active Routes to School in Region 6 from five schools to 32. Buies Creek Elementary School is one of the schools that is now participating in the initiative and has connected with students at Campbell to assist with these events.


“Rebekah’s success with Active Routes to School is a great example of what our students can do with their degree after graduation,” said Wesley Rich, PhD, associate dean for administration and chair of the department of public health.


“The program really reflects the interdisciplinary nature of public health through the strong cooperation between the Department of Transportation and the Division of Public Health,” said Rich. “Here we have public health specialists working closely with engineers and policy experts to create comprehensive and creative solutions that promote health and address complex health problems such as obesity, heart disease, and type II diabetes. Given the recent decision to establish a School of Engineering, Rebekah’s work highlights how the masters in public health complements the new engineering degree.”


West will be working on this grant-funded project through 2016.


Photo: West sharing a presentation on Active Routes to School