Health education is a new but growing profession, with employment in this field is expected to expand 26 percent by 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics. Many health educators can earn a degree specifically in the field, while others have backgrounds in health fields such as nursing. Regardless of background, the primary goal of health educators is to improve people's health and quality of life.
Health educators help people improve their health in all stages of life. Educators work in a wide variety of settings and for a wide variety of age groups. Some educators visit elementary schools to speak with children about the importance of eating fruits and vegetables. Other educators work in non-profit clinics educating senior citizens about the importance of staying active and eating for good bone health.
Health educators strive to help people make better health decisions. To do so, they often tailor their message to the group they are educating. For example, because teens are prone to choosing sugary sodas from school vending machines, health educators working in high school settings often teach kids about the health risks of high fructose corn syrup. They may also explain the risks of unhealthy habits like smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and unprotected sex.
A goal of health education is to minimize the occurrence of life-threatening illnesses. For instance, the risk of developing diabetes and heart disease can be lessened with proper diet and exercise. A health educator might explain to adults how cutting back on foods high in cholesterol and sugar reduces the chance of developing these ailments.
Health educators fight common misconceptions that affect people's health. For example, some people use artificial sweeteners in the belief they are healthier than sugar, unaware that aspartame and saccharine may also pose health risks. Health educators might also teach clients about the risks of following popular diets that are deficient in nutrients or high in sugar or empty calories.
Health educators often distribute educational resources in the form of packets, fliers and pamphlets. They also educate groups about public resources that may be available for free or minimal cost. These resources might include medical tests or counseling provided by governments, hospitals, clinics and charitable organizations. Health educators want to empower people to use these resources to better their health.