What Are the 7 Areas of Responsibility for Health Educators?
Responsible health educators help improve the health of communities.
Have you recently heard about the usefulness of flu shots or the need to use sunscreen or the benefits of regular exercise? If so, then chances are that a health educator was involved in one or more stages of that message. In fact, health educators work in all areas of healthcare, from public and community health organizations to government agencies to educational venues to community-based prevention clinics. Their job? To make the communities they serve aware of ways to remain healthy and how to avoid health threats.
World health relies on health educators. And you can enter this vital field by earning an MS in Health Education and Promotion or a PhD in Health Education and Promotion. Both of these degrees can help you play an important role in local, national, and/or global health education programs. You can even earn these degrees through an online university, which can give you the convenience you need to advance your skills and knowledge while you continue to work and manage your busy life.
Nevertheless, whether you earn an online health education and promotion degree or attend a program at a brick-and-mortar university, you’ll be expected to learn about—and know how to apply—the core responsibilities of health educators. As laid out by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, health educators have seven primary responsibilities.* Those are as follows:
Assess Needs, Resources, and Capacity for Health Education/Promotion
When working to improve the health of a community, the first step is to assess the health needs of that community. You will look for areas where health is suffering due to a lack of health knowledge and/or poor practices. Then, you will assess the availability of resources with which to better educate the community. Are there proven programs or methods that can help you? Once you’ve made these assessments, the final step is to determine what modes of communication will work best for your community. For instance, if you’re dealing with a community where illiteracy is an issue, you’ll need to communicate in ways that do not require reading, such as by using visual aids.
Plan Health Education/Promotion
Once you have identified the health needs of your community and how best to communicate health knowledge, you have to put together a plan. You’ll want to consider budgets, the attitudes of stakeholders, timelines, government regulations, and overall feasibility. Your goal is to overcome existing obstacles to reach as many people in your community as possible.
Implement Health Education/Promotion
After putting in the work to develop a strong program, you can then go out into your community and provide the education the community needs to improve its overall health and address health-related needs of the community. This phase can be highly rewarding as you will develop practitioner skills by working with various populations and applying behavior change principles. Monitoring program effectiveness and managing its execution are required tools to implement a successful health promotion intervention and/or program.
Conduct Evaluation and Research Related to Health Education/Promotion
As a health educator, your responsibilities extend beyond the implementation of a health education or promotion program. You must also be able to evaluate your program as well as any other programs, projects, or policies you’re involved in. This means you must understand proper evaluation methodology and have realistic, measurable objectives. You can use tests, surveys, observation, medical data, and other facts and figures to conduct an evaluation. Once the evaluation is complete, you are expected to share the results with the wider heath education and promotion community to help improve future efforts.
Administer and Manage Health Education/Promotion
If you’ve developed a health education or promotion program, it’s likely you will be running that program. That’s why health educators must be good managers, capable of performing administrative tasks, supervising staff, and working with community stakeholders.
Serve as a Health Education/Promotion Resource Person
As a health educator, you’re expected to make yourself available to answer community health questions and help that community understand and address health concerns. As such, you need to know where to find accurate health information, how to assess the appropriateness of that information for your community, and how to successfully communicate that information.
Communicate, Promote, and Advocate for Health, Health Education/Promotion, and the Profession
Not everyone understands the importance of health educators or the role they can play in improving local, national, and global health. As a health educator, you have the responsibility to support and promote the profession to others and to work with those in your profession to maintain standards and achieve health education and promotion goals.