• Health educators work to encourage healthy lifestyles and wellness through educating individuals and communities about behaviors that can prevent diseases, injuries, and other health problems.
  • Health educators attempt to prevent illnesses by informing and educating individuals and communities about health-related topics, such as proper nutrition, the importance of exercise, how to avoid sexually transmitted diseases, and the habits and behaviors necessary to avoid illness.
  • They begin by assessing the needs of their audience, which includes determining the appropriate topics to cover. For example, they may hold programs on self-examination for breast cancer to women or may teach classes on the effects of binge drinking to college students.
  • Health educators must take the cultural norms of their audience into account. For example, programs targeted at the elderly need to be different from those aimed at a college-aged population.
  • After assessing their audiences' needs, health educators must decide how to meet those needs.
  • Health educators have a lot of options in putting together programs. They may organize an event, such as a lecture, class, demonstration or health screening, or they may develop educational material, such as a video, pamphlet or brochure.
  • Often, these tasks require working with other people in a team or on a committee.
  • Health educators must plan programs that are consistent with the goals and objectives of their employers. For example, many non-profit organizations educate the public about one disease or health topic, and, therefore, limit the programs they issue.
  • Next, health educators need to implement their proposed plan. This may require locating funding by applying for grants, writing curriculums for classes, or creating materials that would be made available to the public. Also, programs may require dealing with logistical tasks, such as finding speakers or locations for the event.
  • Generally, after a program is presented, health educators evaluate its success. Methods of evaluation vary based on the program in question. For example, they may ask participants to provide feedback using a survey about the program.
  • Through evaluation, health educators can improve plans for the future by learning from mistakes and capitalizing on strengths.
  • Although programming is a large part of their job, health educators also serve as a resource on health topics. This may include locating services, reference material, and other resources and referring individuals or groups to organizations or medical professionals.
  • Even though all health educators share the same overarching goal, their duties can vary depending on where they work.
  • Most health educators work in medical care settings, colleges and universities, schools, public health departments, non-profit organizations, and private business.
  • Within medical care facilities, health educators tend to work one-on-one with patients and their families. In this setting, a health educator’s goal is to educate individual patients on their diagnosis and how that may change or affect their lifestyle. To this end, they may explain the necessary procedures or surgeries as well as how patients will need to alter their lifestyles to manage their illness or return to full health.
  • They may also direct patients to outside resources, such as support groups, home health agencies, or social services.
  • Often, health educators work closely with physicians, nurses, and other staff to create educational programs or materials, such as brochures, Web sites, and classes.
  • In some cases, health educators train hospital staff about how to better interact with patients.
  • Health educators in colleges and universities work primarily with students.
  • Generally, these educators create programs on topics that affect young adults, such as sexual activity, smoking, and alcohol.
  • They may need to alter their teaching methods to attract audiences to their events. For example, health educators might show a popular movie followed by a discussion or hold programs in dormitories or cafeterias.
  • They may teach courses for credit or give lectures on health-related topics. Often, they train students as peer educators to lead their own programs.
  • Health educators in schools are typically employed in secondary schools, where they may teach health class.
  • They develop lesson plans that are relevant and age appropriate to their students.
  • Educators may need to cover sensitive topics, such as sexually transmitted diseases or alcohol and drug abuse and may also teach another subject concurrently, such as science or physical education.
  • Sometimes, they may develop the health education curriculum for the school.
  • Heath educators develop educational materials for use by other public health officials.
  • During an emergency, health educators may be responsible for disseminating information to both the media and the public.
  • They work closely with non-profit organizations to help them get the resources they need, such as funding.
  • In nonprofits, health educators provide the public with information related to health and educate people about the resources available to help people in the community.
  • While some organizations target a particular audience, others educate the community regarding one disease or health issue.
  • Therefore, health educators may be limited in either the topics they cover, the populations they serve, or both.
  • Work in this setting may include creating print-based material for distribution to the community, often in conjunction with organizing lectures, health screenings, and activities related to increasing health awareness.
  • Health educators may also form and lead community coalitions to address public health issues ranging from water quality to healthy food availability or access to safe exercise areas.
  • They can work to set policy that will improve public health. Examples include working to advance legislation for prohibition of smoking in public areas and limitation of junk food in vending machines in schools.
  • When working in private businesses, health educators create programs to inform its employees and that fit into workers' schedules by arranging lunchtime speakers or daylong health screenings so that workers may come when attendance is convenient. Educators in these business settings must align their work with the overall goals of their employers.
  • The rising cost of healthcare has increased the need for health educators. As healthcare costs continue to rise, insurance companies, employers, and governments are attempting to find ways to curb costs.
  • One of the more cost-effective ways is to employ health educators to teach people how to live healthy lives and avoid costly treatments for illnesses.
  • There are a number of illnesses, such as lung cancer, HIV, heart disease and skin cancer that may be avoided with lifestyle changes.
  • Health educators are necessary to help the public better understand the effects of their behavior on their health.
  • Other illnesses, such as breast and testicular cancer, are best treated with early detection, so it is important for people to understand how to detect possible problems on their own. The need to provide the public with this kind of information will result in State and local governments, hospitals, and businesses employing a growing number of health educators.
  • Job prospects for health educators are expected to be favorable, but those who have acquired experience through internships or volunteer jobs will have better prospects.
  • A graduate degree is preferred by employers in public health and for non-entry-level positions.
Health educators work closely with people to alter their behavior. Other occupations with similar skills include counsellors, Psychologists, Registered nurses, Social and human services assistants, Social workers, Teachers.
  • BA in Health Education
  • BA Public Health
This career information is drawn from data provided by the U.S. Department of Labor.