What does a certified health education specialist do?
Certified health education specialists fulfill a variety of roles in both public and private sectors. From research and data analysis to program concepting and creation, a certified health education specialist may complete any number of duties behind health programs, including wellness initiatives, behavior change, or other prevention campaigns.
Program Design and Management
Some of the most successful health and wellness programs and initiatives in the world bear the fruit of the program design skills of one or more certified health education specialists. Thanks to the hard work of certified health education specialists:
- More than 550 parks in Chicago now have vending machines offering only 100% healthy snacks and drinks.
- More than 130,000 residents of Tacoma, Washington now have access to community gardens in local parks.
- More than 380,000 residents of Wichita, Kansas now have access to more than 130 new bike racks throughout the city as well as two new walking and biking trails.
- Disabled residents of Schenectady County, New York now have access to wheelchair-accessible community gardens and nutrition programs.
From community health programs which affect one neighborhood to county and statewide initiatives which impact hundreds of thousands of residents, certified health education specialists are involved in the design and management of projects both large and small.
Evaluation and Survey Research
Program monitoring and evaluation are at the core of a certified health education specialist’s role. In order to understand what needs their communities face, community health education specialists are also extensively involved in research and studies which provide insight into what’s working, what’s not, and what is needed in order to create healthy communities and individuals.
Program evaluation and research is accomplished in a variety of ways, including:
- Planning models for health education and promotion
- Accessing the efficacy of various strategies to ensure consistency with objectives
- Management of information systems
- Conducting community surveys and polls
- Establishing and fostering relationships which facilitate access to data
In addition to meeting the beneficiaries of the programs they help create, the evaluation portion of a certified health education specialist’s role him or her to work within the community to make an impact on the lives of many individuals.
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Coalition Building and Policy/Systems Change
For some, making a difference may be felt in the ability to create new health programs for communities, and for others, it may involve working directly with community leaders and politicians to influence change at a county, state, or global level. Certified health education specialists work behind the scenes to create health programs, but they also work diligently with public policy makers to ensure citizens have access to these programs through funding, research initiatives, facilities, and more. This is accomplished in a variety of ways, including:
- Developing goals and objectives
- Designing strategies and interventions
- Involving priority populations and stakeholders
- Developing a plan for the delivery of health education and promotion
If the idea of making a positive impact on your community via public policy change excites you, you may be interested in pursuing Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES®) certification from the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC).
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Health Literacy and Health Communications
In addition to working with public policy makers and world changers to promote health and wellness, certified health education specialists also work with writers, journalists, and other individuals to promote these programs. Certified health education specialists may provide communication needs in a variety of ways, including:
- Writing press releases and creating materials which help others understand the importance and impact of health programs
- Serving as an expert and liaison between community members and health officials
- Working with health officials regarding health programs to create policy information
- Serving as a point of contact for individuals or organizations seeking answers to questions regarding current or potential programs
- Writing articles and informative pieces for newspapers, magazines, and other publications
The health literacy and communications portion of a certified health education specialist’s role may also include working with private organizations such as businesses and private education centers or in public schools, college classrooms, and other settings to help individuals understand the importance of health and wellness.
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Curriculum Development and Training
In addition to educating community members and individuals on the importance of health and wellness programs, a certified health education specialist is also instrumental in hiring and training health program employees. Certified health education specialists who help implement new programs are also often responsible for developing the guidelines and handbook regarding these programs. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways;
- Working with writers to create compelling and informative content
- Working with graphic designers to create program signage and materials
- Working with new and existing employees to create guidelines, goals, and procedures
- Providing expert assistance and guidance to curriculum creators
- Developing plans for conducting training
- Establishing advisory relationships
Motivational Interviewing and Behavior Change Methods
Certified health education specialists also work as program educators and health advocates who provide needed counseling and education for community members. Working with individuals who benefit from health education programs can be one of the most challenging yet rewarding aspects of a certified health education specialist’s role. This can include:
- Educating pregnant mothers on the dangers of smoking and helping them make a plan to quit
- Working with new mothers as a lactation consultant who provides support and answers questions regarding feeding times, schedules, and more
- Working with type 2 diabetics to create an individualized health and wellness plan for optimum health
- Helping parents understand how to make healthy food purchases for their families at the grocery store
- Working with university students to understand the importance of safe sex and moderation in alcohol consumption
- Working with children in schools to help them understand the importance of healthy lunch choices
- Working with employees and managers to create and promote more peaceful work environments
- Working with individuals to overcome alcohol and drug addiction in order to enjoy more fulfilling lives
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Capacity Building at an Institutional or Societal Level
Last but certainly not least, certified health education specialists work at both the institutional and societal level as health and wellness experts who can help others understand the importance of taking care of the mind, body, and soul. From university health coordinators to grant writers and public health inspectors, certified health education specialists can serve as experts who:
- Protect community members from unsafe practices
- Create programs which impact hundreds of thousands, or millions, of people
- Set societal standards for health and wellness which impact public policy decisions and private and public health programs
Learn More about the Core Competencies and Sub-Competencies of CHES® and MCHES® →