Welcome to the website for the Department of Public Health Education at North Carolina Central University.
Many students enter NCCU with an interest in health-related issues and a desire for a health career. Most are thinking about medicine or nursing. Few are aware of the many other health career options available to them, including health education. Here is some basic information about our profession:
What is health education?
In health education we work to prevent the diseases and injuries that doctors and nurses often treat. Whereas doctors and nurses usually work with individuals, health educators generally focus on communities. We work to encourage people to adopt healthy behaviors, and we work to ensure that communities have the resources they need to support the health of their residents – everything from nutritious food in school cafeterias and adequate parks and recreation facilities for exercise to laws that prohibit smoking in public places and texting while driving. By focusing on prevention, health education saves lives, improves the quality of people’s lives and reduces health care costs.
Where do health educators work?
We work in a wide variety of settings – state and local health departments, schools and universities, small community-based organizations and large non-profits, hospitals and other health care agencies, even corporate and business worksites. We work wherever people need help adopting healthy lifestyles and wherever communities need help supporting the health of their citizens.
What specifically do health educators do?
We assess the health needs of individuals and communities.
We plan, conduct, and evaluate programs to address those needs. Such programs may target cancer, heart disease, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, sexual assault, gang violence, or drunk driving, but always our primary goal is prevention.
We serve as a source for those seeking information on health and health services.
We advocate for the resources and policies needed to support healthy communities.
Health education is one discipline within the larger field of public health. Public health has a special focus on social justice. Public health professionals work to right injustices in health and to create societies where everyone has an equal opportunity to live a long and healthy life. Health disparities still run rampant in our country and around the world. In the U.S., racial and ethnic minorities and low-wealth individuals experience higher rates of just about any health problem you can name - from hypertension to lung cancer to gun violence. And in developing countries, children still die of diseases such as measles and pertussis that have largely disappeared in the developed world. Public health is dedicated to resolving these inequities, and health education plays a critical role in accomplishing this mission.
Health education is no cake-walk. Health educators work long hours, often at night and on weekends. And health education is not a get-rich-quick scheme. But you can earn a good living in this profession, and you will reap far more than material rewards in this work – rewards that are ultimately more satisfying than the paycheck.
So if you’re interested in a career in health, remember there are options beyond medicine and nursing. We’d be happy to talk with you about a very good one.
David H. Jolly, DrPH
Associate Professor and Chair, Public Health Education Department