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Health Education: Understanding the Factors That Contribute to the Emergence of Infectious Disease

In our interconnected world, an outbreak of infectious disease can be just one plane ride away.

Experts say world health is in danger from a growing number of emerging infectious diseases.1 Though once expected to be eliminated as a public health problem, infectious diseases are now the leading cause of death worldwide and a leading cause of mortality in the United States.2

What Are Emerging Diseases?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines emerging diseases as diseases that have increased in the past 20 years, or that are likely to be growing threats in the future.2

They can be relatively recent discoveries, like Bourbon virus, identified in Bourbon County, Kansas, in 2014, or diseases that are new to an area, like the Zika virus emerging in the Western Hemisphere. They can also be diseases previously thought to be under control, such as pertussis, tuberculosis, cholera, and yellow fever; or those caused by bacteria, such as MRSA and C. difficile, that have grown resistant to some antibiotics.3

The World Health Organization reports that at least 30 new diseases have emerged in the past 20 years.1 According to the CDC, illnesses from mosquito, flea, and tick bites—including Zika, West Nile, Lyme disease, and chikungunya—tripled between 2004 and 2016. “And we don’t know what will threaten Americans next,” says CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield.4

The Breeding Grounds

The CDC says factors contributing to disease emergence include:2

  • Societal events: Economic impoverishment, war or civil conflict, population growth and immigration, urban decay
  • Healthcare: New medical devices, organ or tissue transplantation, drugs causing immunosuppression, widespread use of antibiotics
  • Food production: Globalization of food supplies; changes in food processing, packaging, and preparation
  • Human behavior: Sexual behavior, drug use, diet, outdoor recreation, travel, use of day care facilities
  • Environmental changes: Deforestation/reforestation, changes in water ecosystems, flood/drought, famine, global warming
  • Public health infrastructure: Curtailment or reduction of prevention programs, inadequate communicable disease surveillance, lack of trained personnel (e.g., epidemiologists, laboratory scientists, and vector and rodent control specialists)
  • Microbial adaptation and change: Changes in virulence and toxin production, development of drug resistance, microbes as cofactors in chronic diseases

Health Educators Can Help

As the nation’s healthcare providers continue to focus on prevention as a path to wellness, health educators can play a vital role in helping to stop the spread of infectious diseases as well. With a master’s in health education and promotion online from Walden University, you can learn how to develop disease prevention strategies for individuals, communities, and organizations.

Walden’s respected curriculum aligns with the Seven Areas of Responsibility for Health Educators outlined by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing. With a health education and promotion degree from Walden, you’ll be ready to sit for the national Certified Health Education Specialist and Master Certified Health Education Specialist exams.

An MS in Health Education and Promotion can prepare you to:

  • Examine historic milestones, current challenges, and future trends related to health and health education.
  • Analyze biological, social, political, cultural, environmental, and behavioral factors that impact both individual and broader population health.
  • Assess community needs and capacity for health education.
  • Develop culturally tailored health education programs and communication using health behavior theories and models.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of health education programs, communication, and research.
  • Apply key leadership concepts and skills to effectively administer health education programs and services.
  • Utilize best practices of health communication to promote and advocate for individual and population health.
  • Apply research principles and methods to address 21st-century health challenges.

The focus on prevention-based healthcare is boosting the demand for professionals with careers in health education and promotion. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of health educators and community health workers is projected to grow 11% through 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations.5

An online master’s in health education and promotion can help prepare you for an exciting range of direct service or leadership positions in academic, clinical, community, or corporate settings. Depending on your experience and training, career options may include:

  • Health educator/counselor
  • Health promotion specialist
  • Health coach/wellness coach 
  • Health coalition specialist
  • Community health/outreach coordinator
  • Health education specialist/director  

With a master’s in health education and promotion online, you can help conquer one of the world’s most pressing problems and help build a healthier, more resilient world.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an MS in Health Education and Promotion degree program online with multiple specializations. Expand your career options and earn your degree using a convenient, flexible learning platform that fits your busy life.


Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,