Blog by: Animesh Paul
If you’re interested in influencing the health choices that people make and you are a good communicator, the role of a health promotion specialist could be for you
Health promotion specialists help people to improve their health and increase their control over it.
Roles may vary from giving face-to-face advice to individuals to producing strategic policies for health promotion. You may set up schemes promoting a healthy lifestyle, run campaigns and implement government initiatives relating to public health.
You can work in a range of settings, including:
- local communities;
Job titles vary so look out for roles such as health education specialist or health improvement practitioner.
Types of health promotion specialist
It’s possible to cover a number of different health-related issues, or to specialise in one area such as:
- drug misuse;
- the dangers of smoking;
- excessive alcohol consumption;
- healthy eating;
- sexual health.
Your work could also be focused on a specific section of the community, such as elderly or disabled people or an ethnic minority group.
Due to the diverse nature of the job there is no standard role, but in general you may need to:
- plan and develop policies, strategies and projects for promoting health at local, regional or national level;
- develop the health awareness of individuals, groups and organisations and empower them to make healthy choices;
- facilitate and support a range of statutory, voluntary, charitable and commercial organisations in their delivery of health promotion activities;
- run community training courses and workshops in areas such as mental health, accident prevention, cancers and heart disease;
- develop and support local partnerships to broaden the local response to health inequalities;
- identify training needs arising from strategic and local agendas for people such as health professionals and volunteers;
- provide specialist advice and resources to other agencies, such as schools and local communities;
- ensure that work is underpinned by sound, up-to-date knowledge of health promotion theory and make sure that projects are based on evidence of effectiveness;
- lobby for increased recognition of preventative and promotional measures that can take place at a population level and which have a positive impact on the health of a community;
- write and produce leaflets, posters, videos and brochures to aid health promotion in different environments.
India currently is faced with triple burden of diseases i.e. the existing communicable diseases, the emerging and re-emerging communicable diseases and the ever-increasing non communicable, lifestyle related diseases (WHO, Burden of diseases in India, 2005). All of these are one way or the other interlinked to lifestyles and behaviors at individual or community level. Behavioral change through effective communication has been perceived and proven as a useful and the most cost-effective tool for addressing public health problems. Behavior in itself is multifactorial in causation and depends upon Healthy Public policy and supportive environment. This requires enabling health personnel to design suitable health promotional interventions to bring sustained change in behavior of the community (WHO, Burden of diseases in India, 2005). Recognizing the significant role of health promotion in spearheading public health interventions in India, it is imperative that health promotion should receive its deserving thrust. However, there is no systematic and comprehensive information available for existing teaching, training and capacity building activities pertaining to health promotion in India. In the light of above, a situational analysis was carried out to assess the current status of health promotion education across the country.
Exclusive programs on health education (postgraduate diploma / diploma) aimed towards producing a cadre of health educators for the community is presently being administered by All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health (AIIH&PH, 2011), Kolkata and Central health education bureau (CHEB, 2011), New Delhi. AIIH&PH, an autonomous institute and one of the premier public health institutes of the country, offers one year diploma in health education while CHEB administers a two year post-graduate diploma in health education (PGDHE) in affiliation with Delhi University.
Diploma in nutrition and health education (DNHE) is administered primarily through distance education mode by various open universities, the most important among them being Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU, 2011). DNHE is a flexible study program with regular class room contact sessions. The study program includes a compulsory project work on health education.