Health education is the profession of educating people about health. Areas within this profession encompass environmental health, physical health, social health, emotional health, intellectual health, and spiritual health. It can be defined as the principle by which individuals and groups of people learn to behave in a manner conducive to the promotion, maintenance, or restoration of health. However, as there are multiple definitions of health, there are also multiple definitions of health education. The Joint Committee on Health Education and Promotion Terminology of 2001 defined Health Education as "any combination of planned learning experiences based on sound theories that provide individuals, groups, and communities the opportunity to acquire information and the skills needed to make quality health decisions." The World Health Organization defined Health Education as "compris[ing] [of] consciously constructed opportunities for learning involving some form of communication designed to improve health literacy, including improving knowledge, and developing life skills which are conducive to individual and community health."
The Role of the Health Educator
The Role of the Health Educator
From the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century, the aim of public health was controlling the harm from infectious diseases, which were largely under control by the 1950s. By the mid 1970s it was clear that reducing illness, death, and rising health care costs could best be achieved through a focus on health promotion and disease prevention. At the heart of the new approach was the role of a health educator A health educator is “a professionally prepared individual who serves in a variety of roles and is specifically trained to use appropriate educational strategies and methods to facilitate the development of policies, procedures, interventions, and systems conducive to the health of individuals, groups, and communities” (Joint Committee on Terminology, 2001, p. 100). In January 1979 the Role Delineation Project was put into place, in order to define the basic roles and responsibilities for the health educator. The result was a Framework for the Development of Competency-Based Curricula for Entry Level Health Educators (NCHEC, 1985). A second result was a revised version of A Competency-Based Framework for the Professional Development of Certified Health Education Specialists (NCHEC,1996). These documents outlined the seven areas of responsibilities which are shown below.
Health education is also an effective tool that helps improve health in developing nations. It not only teaches prevention and basic health knowledge but also conditions ideas that re-shape everyday habits of people with unhealthy lifestyles in developing countries. This type of conditioning not only affects the immediate recipients of such education but also future generations will benefit from an improved and properly cultivated ideas about health that will eventually be ingrained with widely spread health education. Moreover, besides physical health prevention, health education can also provide more aid and help people deal healthier with situations of extreme stress, anxiety, depression or other emotional disturbances to lessen the impact of these sorts of mental and emotional constituents, which can consequently lead to detrimental physical effects.
In the United States some forty states require the teaching of health education. A comprehensive health education curriculum consists of planned learning experiences which will help students achieve desirable attitudes and practices related to critical health issues. Some of these are: emotional health and a positive self image; appreciation, respect for, and care of the human body and its vital organs; physical fitness; health issues of alcohol, tobacco, drug use and abuse; health misconceptions and myths; effects of exercise on the body systems and on general well being; nutrition and weight control; sexual relationships and sexuality, the scientific, social, and economic aspects of community and ecological health; communicable and degenerative diseases including sexually transmitted diseases; disaster preparedness; safety and driver education; factors in the environment and how those factors affect an individual's or population's Environmental health (ex: air quality, water quality, food sanitation); life skills; choosing professional medical and health services; and choices of health careers.
Health Education Code of Ethics
The Health Education Code of Ethics has been a work in progress since approximately 1976, begun by the Society of Public Health Education (SOPHE). Various Public Health and Health Education organizations such as the American Association of Health Education (AAHE), the Coalition of National Health Education Organizations (CNHEO), SOPHE, and others collaborated year after year to devise a unified standard of ethics that health educators would be held accountable to professionally. In 1995, the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, Inc. (NCHEC) proposed a profession-wide standard at the conference: Health Education Profession in the Twenty-First Century: Setting the Stage. Post-conference, an ethics task force was developed with the purpose of solidifying and unifying proposed ethical standards. The document was eventually unanimously approved and ratified by all involved organizations in November 1999 and has since then been used as the standard for practicing health educators.
National Organizations for Public Health/Health Education
American Public Health Association (APHA) APHA is the main voice for public health advocacy that is the oldest organization of public health sine 1872. The American Public Health Association aims to “protect all Americans and their communities from preventable, serious health threats and strives to assure community-based health promotion and disease preventions.” Any individual can become a member and benefit in online access and monthly printed issues of The Nation’s Health and the American Journal of Public Health
Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE) The mission of SOPHE is to provide global leadership to the profession of health education and health promotion and to promote the health of society through advances in health education theory and research, excellence in professional preparation and practice, and advocacy for public policies conducive to health, and the achievement of health equity for all. Membership is open to all who have an interest in health education and or work in health education in schools, medical care settings, worksites, community based organizations, state/local government, and international agencies. Founded in 1950, SOPHE publishes 2 indexed, peer-reviewed journals, Health Education & Behavior and Health Promotion Practice.
American School Health Association (ASHA) The American School Health Association was founded in 1972 by a group of physicians that already belonged to the American Public Health Association. This group specializes in school-aged health specifically. Over the years it has snowballed and now includes any person that can be a part of a child’s life, from dentists, to counselors and school nurses. The American School Health Association mission “is to protect and promote the health of children and youth by supporting coordinated school health programs as a foundation for school success."
American Association of Health Education/American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (AAHE/AAHPERD) The AAHE/AAHPERD is said to be the largest organization of professionals that supports physical education; which includes leisure, fitness, dance, and health promotion. That is only a few; this incorporates all that is physical movement. This organization is an alliance with five national associations and six districts and is there to provide a comprehensive and coordinated array of resources to help support practitioners to improve their skills and always be learning new things. This organization was first stated in November 1885. William Gilbert Anderson had been out of medical school for two years and was working with many other people that were in the gymnastic field. He wanted them to get together to discuss their field and this organization was created. Today AAHPERD serves 25,000 members and has its headquarters in Reston, Virginia.
Eta Sigma Gamma (ESG) The Eta Sigma Gamma is a national health education organization founded in 1967 by three professor from Ball tate University. The mission of the ESG to promote public health education by improving the standards, ideals, capability, and ethics of public health education professionals. The three key points of the organization are to teach, research, and provide service to the members of the public health professionals. Some of the goals that the Eta Stigma Gamma targets are support planning and evaluation of future and existing health education programs, support and promote scientific research, support advocacy of health education issues, and promote professional ethics.
American College Health Association (ACHA) The American College Health Association originally began as a student health association in 1920, but then in 1948 the association changed the name to what its known today. The principal interest of the ACHA is to promote advocacy and leadership to colleges and universities around the country. Other part of the mission's association is to encourage education, communication, and services to students and campus community in general. The association also promotes advocacy and research. The American College Health Association has three types of membership: institutions of higher education, individual members who are interested in the public health profession, and susbtain members which are profitable and non-profitable organization. The ACHA is connected to 11 organizations located in six regions around the country. Currently, the American College Health Association serves 900 educative institutions and about 2400 individual members in the United States.
Directors of Health Promotion and Education (DHPE) Founded in 1946 as one of the professional groups of the Health Education Profession. The main goal of the HEPE is to improve the health education standards in any public health agency. As well, build networking opportunities among all public health professionals as a media to communicate ideas for implementing health programs, and to keep accurate information about the latest health news. The DHPE also focus to increase public awareness of health education and promotion by creating and expanding methods of existing health programs that will improve the quality of health. The Directors of Health Promotion and Education is linked to the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) to "work on health promotion and disease prevention".