A community’s health should not be left to luck. Instead, public health professionals must strategize how to address the factors that lead to poor health. By teaching communities about the actions they should and should not take, public health professionals can empower people to protect their emotional and physical well-being.
Consider the importance of educating the public about cardiovascular disease, responsible for 1 in 3 American deaths, according to the American Heart Association. Research shows that 80% of cardiovascular disease cases could have been prevented if individuals had stopped smoking, eaten healthy diets to control high cholesterol, and engaged in regular physical activity to manage blood pressure. With such great odds, the value of programs that teach communities about risk factors and offer tools to change behavior seems clear.
Health educators can serve as lifelines to individuals and communities when they need information about how to manage chronic diseases, combat depression, or avoid unintended pregnancies. By developing programs that teach people about the health risks and issues affecting their communities, health educators empower individuals to take better care of their diabetes, improve the nutrition of their children, and prevent violence. Those who work in health education not only help people deal with existing problems but also aim to promote general wellness and educate communities about healthier lifestyles.
Those inspired by the opportunity to build healthier communities through education may want to learn more about the health educator profession. Understanding the education required for the job, the health educator salary, and the work duties and responsibilities can help aspiring health educators plan successful careers.
What Is a Health Educator?
Health educators play a vital role in public health. They develop critical programs that help individuals make healthy choices that prevent disease and injury. They also promote behaviors that improve wellness, help people manage existing conditions, and aid individuals in locating the health services they need.
To address the health of a community, health educators must first assess the community’s needs. For example, does the community need help to address opioid use, and if so, to what extent can community members identify an overdose? Do the families and friends of opioid users know about and have access to emergency overdose reversal drugs such as naloxone? By investigating relevant questions related to the health concerns faced by a community, health educators can develop the programs and materials needed to address pressing issues. Once programs are in place, health educators use evaluation tools to gauge their effectiveness.
Assessing community needs involves collecting and analyzing data to gain clarity about existing programs and how to improve them. Health educators may discover no programs exist and move forward by innovating solutions to issues that require attention such as poor diet or excessive alcohol consumption. Putting programs into place often requires training community health workers and managing a team throughout a program’s implementation.
Effective health education programs offer important benefits. Diabetes patients who have learned to use their diets as a tool to manage the disease may have fewer clinical visits. People with heart disease who have achieved success in a smoking cessation program may be less likely to end up in an emergency room. In general, health education programs not only have the potential to improve the overall health of a neighborhood or community; they also can help people live healthier lifestyles at a younger age.
What Is a Health Educator Salary?
Health educators earn a median annual salary of around $54,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Those working in state, local, and private hospitals tend to make substantially more, earning about $65,000 a year. Health educators working for religious or professional organizations tend to make less, earning around $49,000 a year.
Other factors that affect a health educator salary include the location of a position and a professional’s years of experience. Health educators working in Atlanta; Washington, D.C.; and San Jose, California, can expect to earn between around $81,000 and $91,000 annually, according to U.S. News & World Report. Data from PayScale finds that salaries increase with more years in the field. With 10 years of experience, health educators can earn 13% more than the average salary. With 20 years of experience, health educators can expect to earn 24% more.
The Skills of a Health Educator
Using education as a tool to improve people’s health calls for specific expertise. In addition to possessing technical knowledge, health educators need sharp skills in the following areas to accomplish their daily work:
Ohio University’s online Master of Public Health program allows students to cultivate these core competencies on a deeper level. Coursework covers theories of health education and key public health concepts. Students also learn how to plan, implement, and evaluate health education programs. Additionally, students participate in a practicum, which gives them the opportunity to apply the skills learned in real life, further preparing them to become effective health educators.
Improve Community Health with a Master of Public Health
With a clear understanding of the health educator salary, job duties, and required skills, aspiring health educators can take the next step in building their careers by earning an advanced degree. Discover how Ohio University’s online Master of Public Health prepares graduates to employ strategies that can change people’s behaviors and empower them to live healthier lives.
American Heart Association, “Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics 2018 At-a-Glance”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Health Education Workforce: Opportunities and Challenges”
Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Educational and Community-Based Programs
Ohio Society for Public Health Education, What Is a Health Educator?
Ohio University, Online Master of Public Health
Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, “How to Use Naloxone to Reverse Opioid Overdose and Save Lives”
PayScale, Average Health Educator Salary
Science Daily, “Nearly Half of All Adult Americans Have Cardiovascular Disease”
Society for Public Health Education, Health Education Specialist
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Health Educators and Community Health Workers
U.S. News& World Report, “Health Educator Salary”