Alumni Features Public Health

Hip hop and community health

Community health worker Christina Chac applies her public health skills at the Asian Health and Service Center in Portland, Ore., but she got her start at Oregon State.

By Kathryn Stroppel

Community health worker Christina Chac applies her public health skills at the Asian Health and Service Center in Portland, Ore., but she got her start at Oregon State. 

A 2017 public health alumna, Christina studied health promotion and health behavior after first pursuing a degree in microbiology.  

“I thought that only a science degree would help me achieve my goals in the health field,” she says. “During my sophomore year, I entered University Exploratory Studies, discovered core public health classes and absolutely fell in love with the discipline. I then decided to pursue a public health degree and learned the core foundations of public health, including the social and individual determinants of health, health program planning and epidemiology. 

“This exposure and knowledge made me realize that public health opportunities are everywhere,” she says. “Public health is everything.”

“It is important because it strives to make individuals and communities healthy – and intervene when individuals and communities are not healthy. Public health is practical in any field and can easily be applied anywhere and everywhere.”  

During her time at Oregon State, Christina took on undergraduate research with a project to determine the associations between hip hop and R&B YouTube music videos, examining substance abuse imagery, emotions and content themes. 

“Who knew that I would be able to take my interest in listening to hip hop and R&B music and develop it into academic research?” she asks. “Throughout this experience, I learned about research methods, improved my writing skills and presented at the Oregon Public Health Association’s 2015 annual conference. After two years of cultivating my research process with guidance from my faculty mentor, Kari-Lyn Sakuma, I wrote an Honors thesis – one of my proudest accomplishments.” 

After graduation, Christina says she scrambled to figure out her next step and applied to nursing school. “After two rounds of nursing school applications and finally getting accepted, I realized that becoming a nurse might not be what I want to do after all,” she says. “Public health has been my passion, and I can use that drive to work alongside nurses, doctors, key stakeholders and other public health officials to ensure that communities are healthy.”  

Now at the Asian Health and Service Center in Portland, Christina observes and works to understand health disparities, health needs and gaps in the community. The center offers resources and programs, and Christina helps community members who speak Vietnamese connect with support services. 

“I feel an overwhelming sense of passion and achievement when community members overcome barriers, receive the support and resources they need, and feel more empowered and confident to maintain their health and well-being.”