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Sep 30

Community Health Jobs – Southern New Hampshire University

A career as a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) can empower you to improve your community by promoting healthy lifestyles, preventing disease and educating people and whole communities about improving their health.

A chief requirement to become a Certified Health Education Specialist is at least a bachelors degree in community health educationor a similar field. But first, what is community health, and how is it different from public health?

Community health focuses on helping people, communities and organizations live healthier by educating them about the possible risk factors for adverse health conditions.

In a nutshell, its about making sure people know the risks inherent in their day-to-day behavior and planning, implementing and evaluating the effectiveness of health education programs designed to reduce health disparities in a community and improve the quality of life of community members.

Community health education is the ability to promote health and prevent disease, disability and premature death by educating and empowering individuals and communities to change their behaviors to improve their overall health and well-being, said Joi Alexander, community health education adjunct instructor at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU). The purpose of community health education is to positively influence the health behavior of individuals and communities, as well as the living and working conditions which influence their health."

Community health isnt exactly different than public health; rather, it is a sub-discipline of public health, according to Dr. Gail Tudor, associate dean of health professions at SNHU.

While community health educators focus on health programs and how individuals choices influence their health and their community, the focus of public health is far more reaching.

Public health professionals try to prevent problems from happening or recurring through promoting healthy lifestyles, researching disease and injury prevention, detecting, preventing and responding to infectious diseases, implementing educational programs, recommending policies, administering services and conducting research," Tudor said. "A large part of public health is promoting healthcare equity, quality and accessibility."

The path to becoming a CHES includes a mixture of education, experience and successfully passing a certification exam administered by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC) to demonstrate competency of the 7 areas of responsibility incumbent on CHES practitioners.

The CHES designation after a health educators name is one indication of professional competency and commitment to continued professional development, Alexander said. In addition, the designation signifies that an individual has met required academic preparation qualifications, has successfully passed a competency-based examination and who satisfies the continuing education requirement to maintain the national credential.

The CHES designation also created a national standard for the practice of health education. While the certification isnt necessarily a requirement to work in the field, some employers do require it, and it tells a potential employer much about your knowledge and experience.

It will tell employers that candidates have received the gold standard in the profession to obtain the knowledge and skills in areas deemed necessary to the field of practice as delineated by the profession, Alexander said.

Health educators work to promote community wellness and educate others about how their behaviors impact their health, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). NCHEC lists several roles that health educators fill in their work within communities, health departments, colleges and universities and more, including:

According to NCHEC, Certified health education specialists working to create programs in their communities may conduct first-hand research by speaking with individuals in their community to understand their needs, or they may be working alongside other healthcare providers and specialists to evaluate studies which can indicate how new programs can benefit their communities.

According to NCHEC, When you have individuals who are passionate about the work they do helping to build up their patients and community, youll see a difference in the results.

According to NCHEC, Many individuals working in health education careers are instrumental in working to evaluate the needs of a community, advocate for essential programming which can benefit their community and work to implement these programs which can impact thousands of people.

Dr. Pamela Varhol, associate dean of healthcare professions at SNHU, said your duties as a health educator can vary depending on the type of organization you work for, but generally fall within the 7 areas of responsibilities covered by the CHES exam. NCHEC lists those responsibilities as:

Alexander said one of the most critical responsibilities for a Certified Health Education Specialist is to increase awareness about how certain behaviors impact their health.

People often lack recognition of habits that may be hazardous to their well-being, such as making poor dietary choices, smoking, neglecting to exercise or overindulging in alcohol, to name a few, she said. Their role is to provide people with information about the effects of such behaviors on their health and emphasize the importance of utilizing prevention practices when applicable.

Health education is important in a variety of ways. Chronic health conditions - those lasting a year or more and requiring online care - are the leading cause of death in the United States. They're also a leading cause of the countrys annual $3.5 trillion in healthcare costs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to the CDC, many conditions, including heart disease, cancer and diabetes, can be heavily influenced by personal behaviors, including:

Alexander called community health the intersection of healthcare, economics and social interaction. In addition to the health impacts on individuals, chronic health conditions impact entire communities economically and economically. For instance, according to the CDC:

Of course, not every disease or chronic health condition is preventable. But everyones lifestyle choices can affect their risk factors. Health education specialists work to ensure you have the information to inform those choices and know the potential impact of certain behaviors.

Community health establishes peoples awareness, skills and encourages them to adopt positive attitudes toward their overall health and wellbeing, Alexander said. With an aging population, abysmal maternal mortality rates, increased prevalence of many chronic diseases compounded by escalating medical costs, there is a demand for community health educators who develop and implement strategies that address the health needs of the public.

In 2019, more than 62,000 health education specialists were employed in the United States, making a median salary of $55,220, according to BLS. Government job roles accounted for most of that employment 24% and at state or private hospitals 22%. Through 2028 the field is expected to add more than 7,100 jobs, an increase of 11%, according to BLS.

Health education specialists can also work at many other settings, Tutor said, including community and nonprofit organizations, schools, academia and private businesses.

There is also a wide range of jobs roles and titles that can fall under a health education specialists purview, according to NCHEC, including:

From educating individuals or building classroom curriculums or trainings and even organizing large-scale community or state initiatives, Alexander said, they work with individuals, families and communities, as well as public and private organizations to create, implement, oversee and analyze programs and strategies that promote health and well-being.

Joe Cote is a staff writer at Southern New Hampshire University. Follow him on Twitter @JoeCo2323.

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Community Health Jobs - Southern New Hampshire University

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