Health educators play a vital role within the healthcare system by providing individuals and communities with recommendations on how to make healthy choices. Whether giving nutritional advice or cautioning against unhealthy activities, health educators who have a bachelor’s degree in public health aid in the prevention of illnesses and chronic diseases in the communities they serve.
Typical job duties for health educators include drafting and presenting health education materials to the general public, leading education classes on a range of health-related topics, maintaining patient logs and analyzing the effectiveness of wellness programs.
An article in U.S. News & World Report described the profession from the perspective of Deborah Tackmann, a health educator with more than 30 years of experience. Tackmann works for the city of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, as a substance abuse prevention specialist. She helps school staff, students and the broader community develop programs that prevent drug use.
Tackmann said she begins work every day with the “hope of empowering students.” Her job has had a direct impact on the youths she serves. On one occasion, a student told Tackmann how important the health educator’s job was.
“I was going [to end my life] because I didn’t think I had value,” the student said. “But you taught me I had value.”
Tackmann uses her training to “help students use effective decision-making skills, create smart goals and demonstrate the ability to use interpersonal communication skills to enhance health and avoid or reduce health risks.”
Well-Being, a Planned Outcome
A joint statement by the American Cancer Society, the American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association on Health Education highlighted the health challenges facing our country (smoking, obesity, cardiovascular disease) while noting the important role health educators play in preventing these conditions.
“The health and well-being of our nation’s young people is not a matter of luck,” the statement said. “It is not a chance or random event. It must be a planned outcome. The case for well-designed, well-resourced and sustained health education in the nation’s schools is compelling. Research studies provide evidence that promoting and establishing healthy behaviors for younger people are more effective, and often easier, than efforts to change unhealthy behaviors already established in adult populations.”
Health Educator Roles
Common roles within the field of health education include community health worker, healthy lifestyle coach and various other front-line jobs that don’t require additional education or licensure. The median annual salary for health educators is $45,360, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
“Overall employment of health educators and community health workers is projected to grow 16 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations,” according to BLS data. “Growth will be driven by efforts to improve health outcomes and to reduce healthcare costs by teaching people healthy behaviors and explaining how to use available healthcare services.”
By providing relevant and scientifically sound medical advice, health educators improve the quality of life for millions of Americans while lowering burdensome medical costs. Individuals seeking a career with a positive impact on their community should consider earning a Bachelor of Science in Public Health.
Learn more about the UTA online Bachelor of Science in Public Health program.