The increased value placed on health education is part of a shift toward prevention in healthcare. This trend has increased demand for educators who create healthier communities by teaching people to make well-informed health-related decisions.
Rapidly rising healthcare costs have helped drive this move toward preventative care. According to a recent study from the Kaiser Family Foundation, about 4 in 10 American adults have difficulty affording healthcare. The study also found that a quarter of adults say family members in their household could not afford medicine, leading them to avoid filling a prescription, cutting pills in half, or skipping doses.
Given these statistics, health education is obviously an important part of the nation’s healthcare system. It helps people take better control of their own health by giving them the knowledge and skills they need to improve their well-being and overall health.
What Is Health Education?
At its core, health education expands health-related knowledge for individuals and communities. This includes knowledge of how personal choices in areas such as diet and exercise have a strong impact on a person’s health. Health educators develop programs that provide valuable insight into these important areas.
The idea behind health education is to empower people. Armed with more health-related information, people make better-informed decisions. Health education works best when offered in a variety of settings and to people from every population demographic. People of all ages and from every community can benefit from knowing how to better prevent and manage illnesses, diseases, and injuries.
Where Do Health Educators Work?
While many health education jobs are associated with schools, health educators work in a variety of settings. The job opportunities in health education have expanded to include careers in healthcare facilities, community centers, workplaces, and nonprofit organizations.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the federal government agency that tracks job-related data, projects 12 percent growth in the health education field by 2031. That’s more than double the rate for all occupations.
Most health educators hold at least a bachelor’s degree, with a growing number moving on to earn a master’s degree, especially those who work as specialists in health education. No matter where they work, health educators always focus on the same goal: improving health outcomes and reducing health disparities through the promotion of healthier lifestyle choices.
Common Job Duties for Health Educators
Health education addresses more than just illness and injury prevention. Those who work in health education focus on the personal and social well-being of individuals and communities. In the past few decades, health education has evolved into health promotion. Health educators focus on helping people incorporate healthy attitudes and habits into their lives.
Because of the importance of health education and its expansion into a variety of work locations, the job duties of health educators can depend greatly on where they work. However, certain health education tasks are similar wherever a person works.
- Develop health education programs. Health educators create health education programs that address the specific needs of their target audience, which can range from school-age children to seniors living in an assisted living facility.
- Assess needs. Health educators assess the health needs of the individuals and communities where they work. They then use this information to develop health education programs that target the specific health needs their assessment identifies.
- Collaborate. In health education, it’s important to work with other health professionals, including doctors, nurses, and public health officials.
- Evaluate programs. After health education programs are put into place, professionals evaluate the effectiveness of the program and whether it has attained its original goal.
- Advocate. While all health educators advocate for better health education, some take the next step and work directly in the area of policy, seeking to work with lawmakers and community leaders to create better public health policies.
Touro University Worldwide’s MS in Health Science – Health Education Concentration
Touro University Worldwide offers an online Master of Science in Health Science with a Health Education Concentration that prepares graduates for leadership in this growing field. They leave the program with the skills needed to make a positive impact on the health of individuals and entire communities.
The 100% online program has six start dates per year, giving professionals flexibility in how they earn their graduate degrees.
The MS in Health Science – Health Education Concentration program aligns with the competencies published by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC) for Certified Health Education Specialists (CHES) and Master Certified Health Education Specialists (MCHES). Competencies learned in the program include research and program evaluation skills, as well as best practices for offering services that reduce health disparities in underserved populations.