Dr. Hyun Hee Heo returned to her home country, South Korea, after earning her MA in health communications in 2011 and her doctor of public health degree from UH Mānoa in 2014.
First as a post-doc fellow at Yonsei University and now as a research professor at Korea University, Dr. Heo has been involved in research projects to improve health equity in vulnerable populations. These include single-room-occupancy residents in the inner city of Seoul, homeless people with tuberculosis, pregnant women in medically underserved areas and patients with cancer and rare diseases.
As Dr. Heo says, “It is very important to work with vulnerable groups to solve public health problems. I believe in using ‘bottom-up approaches’ in health promotion, as this helps the voiceless to be heard and makes the community healthier through empowerment.”
In May 2017, Dr. Heo won a Young Investigator Award from the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF). This grant will support her research on “Planning and Evaluation Strategies of Community-based Participatory Health Programs (CBPHP) in South Korea: A Case Study.” In this project, she will identify, document and compare case studies of CBPHPs in South Korea. Within the context of South Korea’s National Health Insurance system, she will study how local governments collaborate with the central government to promote health and prevent diseases. In addition, she will study the governance structure of CBPHP, thereby exploring how they collaborate with stakeholders. As a result of the research, she will suggest best practice models of CBPHP tailored to urban, rural and mixed communities.
In addition to conducting research, Dr. Heo teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in public health. “I am happy to familiarize South Korea public health students with the principles and methods of community-based research and health communication that I learned at the University of Hawai‘i. I believe that these approaches will lead to sustainable improvements in health in my country.”