Dr. Naa-Solo Tettey is an associate professor of public health at William Paterson University and the creator and director of the HeartSmarts faith-based cardiovascular health education program. She is also a member of the Research Group on Disparities in Health (RGDH) at Teachers College, Columbia University.
Dr. Tettey completed her Bachelor of Science degree in psychology from Northeastern University where she was a Reggie Lewis Memorial Scholar. She also holds a Master of Arts degree in psychology and education from Teachers College, Columbia University, a Master of Public Health degree from the University of Connecticut, and an MBA in health care administration from the State University of New York. Dr. Tettey holds a doctorate in health and behavior studies with a concentration in health education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Her dissertation research entitled, An online evaluation of a new web-based source of information on eating healthy and being active designed for African American women: Exploring relationships among personal-level variables and website ratings, was a forerunner for internet based research and has since been cited by many others conducting research in this area, as well as served as a guide for other doctoral students.
Dr. Tettey is an expert in the area of faith-based health education initiatives. Her faith-based cardiovascular health education program HeartSmarts, aims to provide much needed education regarding cardiovascular health in a format that is culturally relevant and appropriate. Due to its effectiveness in improving health outcomes and increasing awareness regarding heart disease, the HeartSmarts program has been recognized as a model faith-based health program by The New York Daily News, The New York Times, The New York Post, and DNA Info. As a result of this work Dr. Tettey was awarded the Outstanding Innovations in Community and Health Education Award at the 2013 Health Disparities Conference.
Dr. Tettey is a Master Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES), Certified in Public Health (CPH), and an ACSM Certified Wellness Coach. She was selected as a Diversity Fellow by the State University of New York and Minority Scholar by Teachers College, Columbia University. Dr. Tettey’s research focuses on eliminating health disparities through various mediums including faith-based initiatives, social media, and innovative teaching strategies. She currently resides in New York City and lectures nationally about various topics including health disparities, cardiovascular health, and culturally tailored wellness programs.
They are caregivers, advocates, visionaries, disruptors, allies, and change-makers. And although they come from many different disciplines, they share a common purpose: to reduce health disparities in communities of color.
To mark Black History Month, Health Matters spoke to nine Black health care providers who are leading programs to address health inequities and effect social change. We asked about this year’s national theme of “Black Resistance” and what motivates them to do their work.
Dr. Naa-Solo Tettey
Director of HeartSmarts, a health education research program to reduce cardiovascular disease in underserved communities.
What drives you to do the work of improving health equity?
Knowing that members of the African American community are dying prematurely from preventable diseases is what motivates me to work to improve health equity. Knowledge is power, and a vital step towards reaching health equity. HeartSmarts provides participants with the knowledge they need to become advocates for their health and the health of their communities.
What role should the medical community play?
The medical community must remove the barriers that contribute to health disparities and provide resources and care that address the structural determinants of health.
What does the theme “Black Resistance” mean to you?
Black resistance involves overcoming oppressive forces through resilience, empowerment, and action.
The National Commission for Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC) is extremely proud of the many health CHES® and MCHES® who serve as essential personnel in the continual fight against this global pandemic. They have assumed critical roles in the identification, control, and assurance of the needs of individuals and communities. They advocate fiercely for public protection measures, and support many other critical health education and health behavior measures during these very difficult times. As our nation moves forward in addressing and recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of a competent certified health education workforce will be as significant and essential as ever before.
The following is part of a new series to highlight the amazing work efforts of our credential-holders.
What started as a project in two sections of a public health course at William Paterson University led to the collection of more than 2,500 feminine hygiene products that were donated last month to the University’s Pioneer Pantry and the New Jersey Reentry Cooperation.
Each semester, as part of the Disparities in Health courses that she teaches, associate professor of public health Naa-Solo Tettey creates a service learning project for her students. In the spring 2020 semester, she implemented a project on menstrual equity, called “Period Power.”
“I decided on this project after listening to interviews of formerly incarcerated women, who shared the horrors that women face in prison with rationed maxi pads ad tampons—sometimes one pad or tampon per day—and the difficulty in obtaining these products once released,” Tettey explains. “I conducted more research and realized this is a major issue and emerging movement throughout the country, not only for formerly incarcerated and homeless women, but also for women and girls from various backgrounds.”
The Alzheimer’s Association Hudson Valley Chapter will hold a Virtual Purple Sunday Kickoff event at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 9, via Zoom. This kickoff is designed to introduce people unfamiliar to Purple Sunday to the program and increase general awareness of Alzheimer’s and other dementia in the African American and Hispanic communities through houses of worship. While anyone is welcome to attend this free webinar, organizers would particularly like to invite local faith leaders and their spouses, deacons, stewards and health ministry members.
The program will feature two guest speakers, starting with Naa-Solo Tettey, Ed.D., Associate Professor of Public Health at William Patterson University, who will speak on “Matters of the Heart: Tips for Caregiver Wellness.” Tettey is the creator and director of HeartSmarts, which aims to improve health disparities related to heart disease, diabetes, obesity and hypertension in the African American community. An expert in faith-based health education,she holds a doctorate in health and behavior studies from Teachers College, Columbia University, a master of public health degree from the University of Connecticut and an MBA in health care administration from the State University of New York. She is also a master certified health education specialist certified in public health and an American College of Sports Medicine certified wellness coach.
In order to dismantle social injustices, we must first understand them. Join Dr. Naa-Solo Tettey (Professor of Public Health and Creator of HeartSmarts), Rashad Robinson (President of Color of Change), and Stephanie L. Young (Managing Director for Culture, Communications & Media Partnerships at When We All Vote) for a conversation about the history of racism and its effect on the systems that impact our lives. Learn more about the history of inherent racism and how we can help dismantle social injustice. This panel will be moderated by Shadé Akande, Meetup’s VP of People.
Students in William Paterson University’s Public Health Club presented a collection of clothing, toiletries, and non-perishable food donated by the campus community to the New Jersey Reentry Corporation, a nonprofit group that helps formerly incarcerated individuals and their families.
“This is the second year we have conducted this drive,” says Dr. Naa-Solo Tettey, associate professor, public health, and advisor to the club. “This really connects students with what they're learning in class and makes it real for them, emphasizing the importance of civic engagement and helping those who may not have as much as they do."
The event, called "Moving Beyond the Bars," is being held to mark National Public Health Week.
"Mass incarceration is one of the greatest public health challenges facing the United States," said Naa-Solo Tettey, a William Paterson professor of public health, who will moderate the discussion.
"Involving students in the criminal justice reform movement is vital for creating positive change," she added.
While modern society has started recognizing the individual contributions of women, the Community Council of the NYPD’s 113th Precinct on Monday honored three Southeast Queens individuals who have risen to the ranks of local leadership. Councilwoman Adrienne Adams (D-Jamaica), Queens Supreme Court Justice Hon. Cheree A. Buggs, and Dr. Naa-Solo Tettey of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital were the honorees at the group’s monthly meeting in commemoration of March as Women’s History Month.
Cardiovascular disease disproportionately impacts African-Americans, but one program is fighting the epidemic with prayer.
As part of her work regarding criminal justice reform, Dr. Tettey took a group of her students to tour New Jersey State Prison. The tour was very educational and touched upon all aspects of public health. Students were able to witness how the inmates live and explore some major public health issues such as policies surrounding transgender inmates and undiagnosed/untreated mental illness.
The highlight of the trip was meeting with two inmates and having an in-depth conversation with them about their experiences. They have both been incarcerated for 30 years and are serving life sentences. They discussed the many social determinants that are leading to mass incarceration including the school to prison pipeline and poverty. This was a full circle moment for the students because these are the topics they discuss in their health disparities class.
Dr. Tettey is a certified Veggiecation educator. The Veggiecation program is a culinary-nutrition education program that introduces adults and children to the wonderfully delicious and nutritious world of vegetables. This is done by incorporating unique and creative vegetable preparations into fun activities and exciting experiences. By replacing food fears and resistance with ownership and positive peer pressure, participants are empowered to expand their horizons while simultaneously improving their nutritional status and knowledge.
The Story Behind the Program
Veggiecation was developed to help educators incorporate vegetable education into their existing curriculum. However, over the years the methods and goals of Veggiecation have evolved to bring nutrition education to communities outside of the classroom setting.
Today, Veggiecation offers a variety of tools to incorporate vegetable education into your every day life. From healthy kids cooking classes and family workshops to educational posters that display the who, what, when, where, and why of a "Special Veggie."
Currently, Veggiecation programming has been implemented in over 30 US States, as well as, Canada.