National Health Education Week runs Oct. 19-23. This week the Society of Public Health Education recognizes Health Educators and highlights the work we do in our communities. Have you recently heard about the advantages of a flu vaccine or the need to use sunscreen or the benefits of being physically active?
If you have, then chances are that a health educator was involved in one or more aspects of that message. In fact, health educators work in many areas of health care, but the vast majority of health education specialists work in public health departments, educational institutions, not-for-profit community health organizations and medical facilities. Our job? To make the communities we serve aware of ways to remain healthy and how to avoid health threats.
Health Educators offer knowledge, skills, and training that complement health care providers, policy makers, educational experts, human resource personnel and many other professionals whose work impacts human health. For instance, when working within health departments, we may launch campaigns designed to help the public understand and deal with important health concerns like smoking, nutrition and infectious disease.
When working in medical centers, we may meet with patients to help explain treatments they are receiving or how to decrease their risk of developing complications from a chronic disease – in other words, how to make healthy choices. Health Educators who work in colleges or universities may design programs and educational materials to help students understand the health issues they are most directly affected by, such as alcohol or drug use and sexually transmitted infections. The list goes on.
Besides behavioral health, health literacy is a large determinant of health status and without these components offered by health educators or health education specialists, members of our communities can be greatly affected. During National Health Education Week, health educators and public health advocates will enhance awareness of various contemporary health issues and how health educators work to solve them. We all work toward one goal: creating healthier lives, in our schools, worksites, our faith communities, worksites and communities overall.
To delve a little deeper into the Health Educator role, we have seven areas of responsibility to help improve the health of our communities:
· Assess the Needs, Resources and Capacity for Health Education/Promotion in our communities
· Plan Health Education Programs after identifying the needs of our communities
· Implement Health Education/Promotion programs to improve overall health
· Conduct Evaluation and Research related to Health Education/Promotion to measure our expected results or outcomes
· Administer and Manage Health Education/Promotion like managing, performing admin tasks, providing technical assistance, supervising and collaborating with community stakeholders.
· Serve as a Health Education/Promotion Resource person making ourselves available to answer health questions and know where to find accurate health information and know how to assess the appropriateness of that information for our community and how to communicate that information
· Communicate, Promote, and Advocate for Health, Health Education/Promotion, and the Profession using our professionalism and expertise in health matters.
Not everyone understands the importance of health educators or the vital role we play in improving local, state, national and global health. As a health educator, we have the responsibility to support and promote our profession to others and to work with those in our profession to maintain standards and achieve health education and promotion goals.
Health promotion, as a behavioral science, is a combination of the biological, environmental, psychological, physical and medical sciences. The goal of health promotion is to promote health and prevent disease, disability, and premature death through education-driven behaviors and related activities. This helps our communities improve their knowledge, attitudes, skills and behaviors to live healthier lives.
Health Education/Promotion is crucial to public health. We work hard to improve health outcomes even though often our efforts are affected by larger societal forces, including disparities and social inequalities. So we have a tough but important job.
During National Health Education Week 2020, we will focus on the following themes:
· Monday – Health Equity and Racism Elimination: Advocating for Change
· Tuesday – Emergency Preparedness – Are You Ready?
· Wednesday – Mental Health and Mindfulness
· Thursday – Health Literacy: Words Matter
· Friday – Career Settings for Health Education/Promotion Specialists
Scotland County is fortunate to have several Health Educators and Health Education Specialists. We are in Public Health and in our Healthcare System. Many of you have participated in programs, classes, and outreach efforts with us and we appreciate our communities’ involvement and participation. For now, we encourage our community to be mindful of the seriousness of COVID-19 and flu season. Get your flu vaccination! Eat healthier! Be more physically active! If you smoke or use tobacco or vape – plan to quit! Visit your doctor for screenings! Wear your mask in public and wash your hands! We are here as a resource for you
If you are interested in learning more about Health Education/Promotion, contact Kathie Cox, Health Educator II/PIO at 910-277-2470.