September 5, 2017 at 1:21 pm

Sociology Alum Never Imagined Consulting for CDC and WHO

Beth Kilgore

Beth Kilgore

Elizabeth Kilgore’s education from the College of Arts & Sciences at Ohio University led her into a career she never imagined when she was a student.

Kilgore ’96 ’02M is an expert in Public Health Communications and consults for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization as well as national, state and local governments and non-profits. Her career has taken her around the world and given her the opportunity to do interesting, challenging work that has a real impact on the health of millions of people.

What Does a Public Health Communications Expert Do?

Her areas of expertise are producing commercials and larger communications strategies to encourage people to engage in healthy behaviors, like quitting smoking, drinking fewer sugary drinks, and taking daily medications to control asthma. She uses her training in sociology to better understand populations and the way individual health is impacted by larger systems and institutions.

“I left Ohio University with strong skills in critical thinking and research, which helps me investigate and better understand what motivates people to make positive changes for their health,” she explains. “My education in sociology is unique in my field and it has really given me a different approach to my work. I see the world as a social scientist, and that is an important lens when trying to make an impact at a population level.”

Kilgore’s career path is not what she thought it would be when she graduated with her B.A. and M.A. in Sociology, but she knew she had acquired a rich education and many useful skills. She began her career as a researcher, first at the Ohio Department of Public Safety and then at the New York City Department of Health.

Love of Qualitative Research

“I love all kinds of research, but especially enjoyed qualitative research – conducting and analyzing in-depth interviews and focus groups,” Kilgore says. “Asking people open-ended questions about their lives and how they make sense of their world can be invaluable in understanding how to communicate with them in ways that makes them both think and feel.”

When she began using this research method to understand how people thought about smoking, the findings began pointing clearly to the kinds of commercials that would motivate people to quit smoking. At this point, she transitioned from research to directing the communications strategy for New York City’s anti-tobacco campaigns, and from 2007-2015, she produced over 20 campaigns. During this time, NYC’s smoking rate decreased by 21 percent (due to media campaigns and anti-tobacco policies). Her organization’s strategy was used by many other jurisdictions, and these commercials have now been adapted for use in 14 other countries.

“It’s very exciting to see the commercials in other languages, motivating people far away to quit smoking.”

Now Kilgore lives in Santa Monica, CA, and consults on public health communications strategies for many others–from the city of Beijing to the state of New Mexico to New York City. She loves using these skills to understand a population and develop strategies that will help them lead healthier lives. It is an exciting job, and she says she uses the skills she learned at Ohio University every day.

Arts & Sciences at OHIO

“When I look back on my time in Athens, I am so very grateful I had the college experience I did. Ohio University isn’t just a school, it is a community. It was the perfect place for a small-town girl from Saint Clairsville, Ohio, to expand her understanding of the world, try new things, and learn what her interests and passions are, while being in a safe and caring environment.

“I’m so glad I went through the Arts & Sciences curriculum, as it allowed me to take a variety of courses – from art history to Spanish to astronomy – that gave me a well-rounded education and a varied skill set. If I had any advice for myself in college, I would say, ‘study more!’

“But, overall, I wouldn’t change a single thing about my time at Ohio University.”

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