As the saying goes, "If you’ve got
your health, you’ve got everything." Health
educators have made this instructional adage a
Health educators promote wellness and
healthy lifestyles. Covering a wide range of topics, these
workers teach individuals and communities about behaviors
that encourage healthy living and prevent diseases and
other problems. The subjects they cover, and the methods
they use, depend on where they work and whom they
This article describes the work of health
educators. It explains what they do, including how
population and place affect their job tasks. It also
provides information about their employment, earnings, job
prospects, and training requirements. Suggestions for
locating additional resources are at the end of the
The specific duties of health educators
vary by work setting. But whether they work in a hospital,
school, business, or other setting, all health educators
use similar skills and tools. In general, health educators
begin by assessing their audience and planning a program
that suits its needs. Then, they implement the program and
evaluate its success.
Assessment. Health educators must
determine which topics and information are most pertinent
to each group. For women at risk for breast cancer, for
example, a health educator might consider a program on
self-exams; for college students, he or she might decide
to teach a class on the hazards of binge drinking..
In determining the needs of the audience,
health educators must also assess appropriate methods for
presenting the material. For example, a program targeting
the elderly would involve different pacing and cultural
references than one aimed at high schoolers.
Planning. After assessing audience
needs, health educators must decide how to meet those
needs. They have a lot of options. They can organize a
lecture, demonstration, or health screening or create a
video, brochure, or display. Often, health educators
create a program that combines several of these elements.
Planning usually requires collaboration
with other professionals. To prepare a program on
childhood obesity, for example, a health educator might
need to consult with pediatricians, exercise
physiologists, and nutritionists.
Implementation. Implementing a plan may first
require that health educators secure funding by seeking
out and applying for grants, writing a curriculum for a
class, or creating written materials for distributing to
the public. It might also require that they complete some
administrative tasks, such as finding a speaker to present
the topic or a venue for the event to be held.
During the program, health educators’
roles vary. They might present the topic
themselves or serve primarily on the sidelines,
introducing the speaker or encouraging audience
participation. The next section, "People and
places," describes in more detail how health
educators’ instructional tasks differ, based on where
they work and the populations they serve.
Evaluation. Usually, after a program is
presented, health educators evaluate its success. They
focus on evidence-based methods of evaluation, such as
tracking the absentee rate of employees or students or
creating and using participant surveys. Through
evaluation, they can improve the plans for future programs
by avoiding problems, learning from mistakes, and
capitalizing on strengths.
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