Elena M. Sliepcevich
A prolific writer, researcher, and patient education developer, Elena M. Sliepcevich directed the monumental School Health Education Study (SHES) before serving as a professor at Southern Illinois University (SIU). National in scope and extending over a decade from 1961 to 1972, SHES was the largest and most comprehensive curriculum development project in the history of the profession and the only national curriculum created without federal funding. Nearly half a century later, the ten conceptual areas identified by the study continue to serve as the basis of most health education curricula, achieving goals of both education and public health.
Recruited by Donald N. Boydston in 1973, Sliepcevich was a Professor of Health Education and the School of Medicine at SIU until her retirement in 1992. She organized the first national conference on patient education, titled “Rx for Health”. In 1977, Sliepcevich became the first professional to receive the American Association for Health Education (AAHE) Scholar Award, which recognized her publications and efforts to promote health education. The American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD) awarded her with their highest honor for long and distinguished service, the Luther Halsey Gulick Medal, in 1979.
Sliepcevich began her career at the age of seventeen, as the youngest student in Montana to earn an elementary teaching certificate. After graduating from the University of Idaho in 1939, she was Co-Director of a Youth Center and taught junior high school and high school until 1946. From 1946 to 1948, Sliepcevich served as Assistant Dean of Women and Director and Assistant Professor of Health and Physical Education at Western Montana College. When Sliepcevich earned her Master’s degree from the University of Michigan in 1949, she received the William Harold Payne Scholar award, the highest given to a Master’s degree candidate at Michigan. She taught health education at Springfield College in Massachusetts while earning her doctorate, becoming the first woman awarded the Doctor of Physical Education in Interdisciplinary Studies by Springfield College in 1955, and Professor and Director of Health Education.
Prior to working on SHES, Sliepcevich served as Professor and Coordinator of Health Education at Ohio State University from 1956 to 1961. University of Florida, University of California, Los Angeles, University of Oregon, and Colorado State College also enjoyed her as a visiting professor during the summer. While directing SHES, Sliepcevich received the Distinguished Service Award from the American School Health Association in 1963. Among her many professional contributions, Sliepcevich served as an officer and chaired numerous committees in AAHPERD. A member of the Health Education Curriculum Commission and the Teacher Education Commission, she served as a delegate to the American National Council for Health Education of the Public. In 1972, Sliepcevich was named a Distinguished Fellow of the Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE).
In her 1964 Summary Report of a Nationwide Study of Health Instruction in the Public Schools, Sliepcevich characterizes health education as a system of dynamically interacting interdependent components: “health as a unity of man’s physical, mental and social well-being; health behavior as knowledge, attitudes, and practices; and the focus of health education as the individual, family, and community”.
Sliepcevich, Elena M. 1964. School Health Education Study: Summary Report of a Nationwide Study of Health Instruction in the Public Schools, 1961-1963. School Health Education Study: Washington, D.C.