New $1.1 million project to fund Public Health AmeriCorps program at Ohio State University Extension

Emilee Drerup, Program Director, OSU Extension Public Health AmeriCorps

COLUMBUS, Ohio—Public health, community outreach, and youth engagement at The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) are getting a boost with the announcement of a $1.1 million investment from AmeriCorps, the federal agency for national service and volunteerism, to fund a new Public Health AmeriCorps program.

The five-year grant, which was awarded to Ohio State University Extension, will fund up to 74 AmeriCorps members to address the public health needs of communities across Ohio and help rebuild the state’s public health sector, said Pat Bebo, assistant director, family and consumer sciences, OSU Extension. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of CFAES.

“The grant will enhance OSU Extension’s presence across Ohio through the creation of an Extension Public Health AmeriCorps (E-PHAC) that supports underserved families through the creation of a public health ecosystem, in tandem with the community, focused on public health issues to positively benefit the community,” Bebo said.

AmeriCorps and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched the Public Health AmeriCorps program nationwide to support the recruitment, training, and development of the next generation of public health leaders who will be ready to respond to the nation’s public health needs.

In Ohio, the E-PHAC program is a collaboration between OSU Extension and two other Ohio State colleges and departments including the College of Public Health and the Department of Human Sciences in the College of Education and Human Ecology (EHE), as well as the Citizenship Health Institute, a Cleveland-based nonprofit that addresses social determinants of health in communities by preparing and supporting youth leaders.

“As a land-grant university, we are part of a cooperative structure dedicated to improving the quality of people’s lives,” said Cathann A. Kress, Ohio State’s vice president for agricultural administration and dean of CFAES. “We have a commitment to serving our state in addition to the country and world.”

The E-PHAC will amount to a community-based effort to compose a health care workforce for and from underserved communities, said Erik Porfeli, chair of the EHE Department of Human Sciences.  

“We will partner with youth to identify and tackle pressing health concerns as we support their journey into career pathways leading to health and wellness jobs in underserved communities,” he said.

E-PHAC members will engage youth in communities in service-learning public health projects to determine through input and assessment a public health-oriented issue that impacts the whole community and work with a team of youth to plan, implement, and report on the service project.

The service projects will include:

  • addressing the public health needs of local communities by providing support in state and local public health settings.
  • advancing more equitable health outcomes for underserved communities.
  • creating pathways for youth to public health-related careers through onsite experience and training, with a focus on recruiting AmeriCorps members who reflect the communities in which they will serve.

“The goal is to support underserved communities to compose their health care workforce from their residents in partnership with CFAES, EHE, public health, and a growing alliance of partners within their community and across the state,” said Andy Wapner, director of Ohio State’s Center for Public Health Practice. 

With this new funding, the project will use Cooperative Extension’s Framework for Health Equity and Wellness as the guiding document that the national Cooperative Extension has adopted to promote health equity in all Extension programs nationwide.

“The E-PHAC program holds the promise of advancing our college pillars and values and affirms our land-grant mission by offering educational opportunities that rally our youth to address pressing health needs in our community while supporting them to pursue health care careers in communities facing health workforce shortages,” said Don Pope Davis, dean of the College of Education and Human Ecology.

Those interested in applying to serve as an E-PHAC can apply at, R68573.

Tracy Turner
For more information, contact: 

Emilee Drerup
Program Director
OSU Extension Public Health AmeriCorps