College of Health Sciences

Public Health Major/Minor

What is Public Health?

Public health is the art and science dealing with the protection and improvement of community health by an organized activity of society to promote, protect, improve, and, when necessary, restore the health of individuals, specified groups, or the entire population. Public health is a concept, a value, a profession, a social institution, a set of scientific and professional disciplines and technologies, and a form of practice. Public health work is conducted by teams of clinicians, epidemiologists, social workers, behavioral scientists, health education specialists, health inspectors, sanitary engineers, statisticians, administrators, and supporting clerical and secretarial staff. Efficient and effective public health practice needs collaborative teamwork. The teams vary greatly in size, complexity, levels of skill, financial support, and government's commitment to the particular public health issues. To know more about what is public health, visit the What is Public Health site or This is Public Health campaign site by the Association of Schools & Programs of Public Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention site, or the World Health organization site. 

What is Health Education?

Health education is both a science and an art. Health education is a social and behavioral science that draws from the biological, environmental, educational, psychological, social, physical, and medical sciences to promote health, prevent disease, injury, disability, and premature death, and improve quality of life. In the meantime, health education involves developing strategies, empowering and equipping individuals, groups, institutions, communities, and populations to improve knowledge, attitudes, skills, and behaviors in health and wellness.

Health education is an emerging profession that is growing in popularity and demand. Due to the high costs of medical care, the leaders of our nation are realizing that the key to good health is prevention. Health education specialists are experts in prevention. Health education is a profession that requires intensive specialized study that can be obtained at the bachelor, master, and doctoral levels. Members of the profession usually belong to a health education professional organization and adhere to a professional code of ethics.

This is accomplished through various roles of health education specialists which is detailed in the Responsibilities and Competencies published by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC).

Why is Health Education Important? (CNHEO)

  • Health education improves the health status of individuals, families, communities, states, and the nation.
  • Health education enhances the quality of life for all people.
  • Health education reduces premature deaths.
  • By focusing on prevention, health education reduces the costs (both financial and human) that individuals, employers, families, insurance companies, medical facilities, communities, the state, and the nation would spend on medical treatment.

Where are Health Education Specialists Employed? 

In schools

Health education specialists teach health as a subject and promote and implement Coordinated School Health Programs, including health services, student, staff, and parent health education, and promote healthy school environments and school-community partnerships. 

In community organizations and government agencies

Health education specialists help a community identify its needs, draw upon its problem-solving abilities, and mobilize its resources to develop, promote, implement and evaluate strategies to improve its own health status. Health education specialists do community organizing and outreach, grant writing, coalition building, advocacy, and develop, produce, and evaluate mass media health campaigns. 

In health care settings

Health education specialists educate patients about medical procedures, operations, services and therapeutic regimens, create activities and incentives to encourage use of services by high risk patients; conduct staff training and consult with other health care providers about behavioral, cultural, or social barriers to health; promote self-care; develop activities to improve patient participation on clinical processes; educate individuals to protect, promote or maintain their health and reduce risky behaviors; make appropriate community-based referrals, and write grants.

On college/university campuses

Health education specialists are part of a team working to create an environment in which students feel empowered to make healthy choices and create a caring community. They identify needs; advocate and do community organizing; teach whole courses or individual classes; develop mass media campaigns; and train peer educators, counselors, and/or advocates. They address issues related to disease prevention; consumer, environmental, emotional, sexual health; first aid, safety and disaster preparedness; substance abuse prevention; human growth and development; and nutrition and eating issues. They may manage grants and conduct research. 

In business & industry

Health education specialists perform or coordinate employee counseling as well as education services, employee health risk appraisals, and health screenings. They design, promote, lead and/or evaluate programs about weight control, hypertension, nutrition, substance abuse prevention, physical fitness, stress management, and smoking cessation; develop educational materials; and write grants for money to support these projects. They help companies meet occupational health and safety regulations, work with the media, and identify community health resources for employees.

Last Updated: 6/26/15