What is Community Health Education (CHE)

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Health education is a social science that draws from the biological, environmental, psychological, physical and medical sciences to promote health and prevent disease, disability and premature death by educating individuals and communities to voluntarily change their behaviors to improve their health and well-being. Health education is the development of individual, group, institutional, community and systemic strategies to improve health knowledge, attitudes, skills and behavior. The purpose of health education is to positively influence the health behavior of individuals and communities as well as the living and working conditions that influence their health.

Health education improves the health status of individuals, families, communities, states, and the nation. Health education enhances the quality of life for all people and 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. For more information about community health, go to www.nchec.org.

What can I do with this degree?

A health educator can work in schools, hospitals or clinics, with community organizations, non-profit agencies, with companies or with governmental agencies. Health educators work to promote better overall health on individual, community and policy levels.

Our recent graduates work:

  • Jennifer Schweiner, 2004, Fitness Consultant, ProFitness Health Solutions, Milwaukee, WI
  • Julie Krautkramer, 2005, Membership Services Director, IAIABC
  • Karen (Klingelhoets) Holton, ACSM, cPT, CHES, 2005, Fitness Director, INVIVO, Milwaukee, WI
  • Amanda Drake, 2006, Public Health Educator, Marathon County Health Department
  • Keely Hyland, 2006, Health Educator, Clay County Health Department, Moorehead, MN
  • Katie Strupp, CHES, 2006, Wellness Coordinator, Waukesha County Technical College
  • Megan Drake, 2006, Peace Corps Volunteer, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
  • Stacy Otto, 2006, Wellness Works Specialist, Watertown Area Health Services

Student definitions of CHE:

“Community Health is an avenue you can take to fit any passion you have for making people’s lives better. To me it is an encompassing major that incorporates psychology, physical health, well being and emotional health. Even economics of the healthcare system regarding the price of prevention compared to treatment and marketing strategies about how to make your program appealing to the public. One of my favorite things about being a CHE major is that so many of my classes apply to things that are going on my life. Often my friends have asked me things about nutrition or sexual health.”
-Brenna A.

“Community health is an opportunity, an opportunity to provide improved quality of life through immersing a target population in personally tailored programs. It means being a resource for not just those people whom you work with, but also all who you come in contact with. And finally it means sharing your experiences with other health educators so as to take ideas, findings and values to enrich what you already have learned.”
-Andy S.

“As for my definition of community health... the collection of knowledge, theories, and activities that can be brought to bear for health enhancement.”
-Kristin G.

“Working with various populations (many times underserved and low socioeconomic status) to help prevent the onset of major diseases and promote healthy lifestyles and decisions. It is not a doctor or a nurse who works with people who are already diseased or injured, but an educator who works with populations (children, young adults, elderly) to instill the education and tools needed to make healthy decisions. Areas of interest can include: maternal/child health, nutrition, mental health, sexuality, aging, etc.”
-Alli R.

“Health educators are advocates, coordinators, teachers and communicators who empower people to take control of their health to improve their lives and well-being. Community health educators are able to: improvise; be patient; motivate people; gain people’s confidence; promote health literacy; manage groups; design, implement and evaluate programs; communicate effectively in many forms; be a good influence; and incorporate everyone and everyone’s vision/version of health into their work.”
-Rebecca M.

Other definitions of CHE:

“Health is a quality vitally important to living satisfaction. Health education was conceived and nurtured as part of the early development of public health organizations. It focused on the single task of disseminating health information. More recently, health educators embraced the broader concept of health promotion. Health promotion is a set of processes that can be employed to change the conditions that affect health. Health education is the profession principally devoted to employing such processes to foster healthful behavior, and, thus, health itself. Health educators are concerned with the full gamut of personal and environmental factors that affect health behavior. Moreover, they seek positive changes in those factors within the workplace, community and the realm of public policy.”
-Bruce G. Simons-Morton, Walter H. Greene & Nell H. Gottlieb, Introduction to Health Education and Health Promotion, 1995

“Community health education is appropriate to the extent that it helps the poor and powerless gain greater control over their health and their lives.”
-David Werner & Bill Bower, Helping Health Workers Learn: A book of methods, aids and ideas for instructors at the village level, 1998

“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
-World Health Organization, 1947