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What Health Educators Do

Health educators teach people about behaviors that promote wellness. They develop programs and materials to encourage people to make healthy decisions.


Health educators typically do the following:

The duties of health educators vary based on where they work. Most work in health care facilities, colleges, public health departments, nonprofits, and private businesses. Health educators who teach health classes in middle and high schools are considered teachers. For more information, see the profiles on middle school teachers and high school teachers.

In health care facilities, health educators often work one-on-one with patients and their families. They teach patients about their diagnoses and about necessary treatments or procedures. They direct people to outside resources, such as support groups and home health agencies. Health educators in health care facilities also help organize health screenings, such as blood pressure checks, and health classes on topics such as correctly installing a car seat. They also train medical staff to interact better with patients. For example, they may teach doctors how to explain complicated procedures to patients in simple language.

In colleges, health educators create programs and materials on topics that affect young adults, such as smoking and alcohol use. They may train students to be peer educators and lead programs on their own.

In public health departments, health educators administer public health campaigns on topics such as proper nutrition. They develop materials to be used by other public health officials. During emergencies, they provide safety information to the public and the media. They help health-related nonprofits obtain funding and other resources. Some health educators work with other professionals to create public policies that support healthy behaviors. Some participate in statewide and local committees on topics such as aging.

In nonprofits (including community health organizations), health educators create programs and materials about health issues for the community that their organization serves. Many nonprofits focus on a particular disease or audience, so health educators in these organizations limit programs to that specific topic or audience. In addition, health educators may lobby policymakers to pass laws to improve public health.

In private businesses, health educators identify common health problems among employees and create programs to improve health. They work with management to develop incentives for employees to adopt healthy behaviors, such as losing weight. Health educators recommend changes to the workplace, such as creating smoke-free areas, to improve employee health.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition