Health Promotion/Education Specialist

The Job and What's Involved

Health promotion/education specialists aim to improve the health of individuals, communities or whole populations and are a vital part of public health teams.

They help people take control of and improve their own health by passing on information, skills and expertise.

The job title covers a wide range of roles and approaches, from hands-on work with individuals on issues such as healthy eating and exercise or sexual health to setting health improvement strategies for a neighbourhood, region or even nationally.

They may plan policies and strategies to promote health, set up schemes to carry these through and assess whether they have been successful.

A health promotion/education specialist may work with organisations - helping employers promote health among their employees, or schools among their pupils.

For example:

With Communities - raising awareness among particular groups such as young men or elderly people, or training community workers.

With Individuals - informing and training fellow healthcare professionals or lay people, who can in turn pass on their expertise to those around them.

On Projects - managing schemes that promote health - for example, healthy eating for schools or stop smoking groups.

On Strategy - drawing up policies designed to have a positive effect on people's health.

On Information and Research - designing ways to gain accurate information about people's health and the factors that affect it.

Day-to-day tasks may include:

  • Making presentations or leading group sessions.
  • Providing advice.
  • Consulting with colleagues within and across organisations.
  • Managing projects and budgets.
  • Reporting on the results of projects and whether they have hit targets.
  • Writing or commissioning materials such as leaflets and videos.
  • Writing articles or taking part in media interviews.

Health promotion specialists usually work with a wide range of people, from schoolchildren to policymakers. A lot of health promotion work is carried out on a partnership basis, so this means being able to forge good relationships with people in different agencies, such as local authorities, prisons and probation services.

Health promotion/education specialists generally work Monday to Friday, though some evening and weekend work may be required. Part-time work and job sharing may be possible.

They may be based in an office, but frequent travel to attend meetings is likely. A driving licence is important.

Other locations include health centres, community centres, schools, hospitals or sports and fitness centres.

Health promotion specialists may attend conferences to present papers and keep up to date with developments. This may include an occasional overnight stay.

Salaries in the NHS start from around £20,700 a year. Experienced specialists may earn up to £33,436, and those on advanced grades up to £39,273.

A specialist at senior level in the NHS with management responsibilities may earn up to £66,657.

Salaries outside the NHS are broadly in line, but do vary, depending on the size of organisation and the particular responsibilities.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are thought to be more than 2,000 full-time health promotion/education specialists in the UK. They are employed mainly by the National Health Service (NHS) in primary care trusts. They may also work for:

  • National agencies, such as the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.
  • Voluntary and charity organisations.
  • Neighbourhood schemes, such as healthy living centres.

Opportunities for skilled people are increasing but, because of the way the work is funded, many health promotion/education specialists work on short-term contracts for specific projects.

Experience of voluntary work with a local health promotion or public health team can be an advantage.

Vacancies may be advertised in local and national press, particularly the Society section of Wednesday's Guardian, in specialist publications such as Health Service Journal, and on websites such as www.jobs.nhs.uk.

Education and Training

Health promotion/education specialists usually need a degree or a professional qualification. This may be in any subject, but courses in health promotion, public health, social science, environmental health, nursing, community work or teaching are the most relevant.

Minimum entry requirements for a degree are usually five GCSE's (A*-C) and two A levels, or equivalent qualifications such as the Diploma in society, health and development or BTEC Awards, Certificates and Diplomas in health and social care.

Several colleges and universities offer foundation degree and full degree courses in health promotion, or in health subjects that include a health promotion element.

A relevant postgraduate qualification, such as a postgraduate diploma or MSc in health promotion, public health or health development, is becoming increasingly desirable.

There are also opportunities to start out in a more junior role, such as a clerical officer in health improvement or resource assistant.

Many health promotion specialists come into the job after a career in a health or education field, such as nursing, health visiting, social work, education or community development work. A BSc top-up course in health promotion is available for nursing diploma students, or those with a foundation degree.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Health promotion/education specialists train on the job. They may attend short courses in specific skills, such as facilitation or negotiation, developing health leaflets or evaluating health promotion, as well as courses on specific areas of health relevant to the issues they are working with - HIV/AIDS, substance misuse or nutrition, for example.

The Royal Society for Public Health also offers Awards at Level 1 in Health Awareness and Level 2 in Health Promotion and Understanding Health Improvement.

The NHS encourages continuing professional development (CPD) to keep skills up to date.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A health promotion/education specialist should have:

  • Excellent communication skills, in person and in writing.
  • An analytical mind.
  • A flair for influencing people and motivating them to change their behaviour.
  • The ability to forge good working relationships with all kinds of people.
  • Sensitivity to the needs of different people and cultures.
  • Confidence and determination.
  • An organised approach.
  • A focus on meeting targets and deadlines.
  • An understanding, supportive and non-judgmental approach.
  • Perseverance, as the results of health promotion work can take many years to show.

Your Long Term Prospects

Progression could be into more senior roles or into specialised areas of health promotion.

It may be necessary to change employers to advance and gain wider experience. Health promotion/education specialists may move from local NHS organisations to government agencies or charities, or vice versa.

Some may become public health consultants, playing a leading role in health improvement and protection. They must first have undertaken specialist training as laid down by the Faculty of Public Health Medicine (FPHM).

Health promotion specialists may apply to join the UK Public Health Register, which aims to ensure high standards of practice in the field.

Get Further Information

The Faculty of Public Health,
4 St Andrews Place, London NW1 4LB
Tel: 020 7935 0243
Website: www.fphm.org.uk

Institute of Health Promotion and Education (IHPE)
Website: www.ihpe.org.uk

National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence,
MidCity Place, 71 High Holborn, London WC1V 6NA
Tel: 0845 003 7780
Website: www.nice.org.uk

NHS Careers, PO Box 2311, Bristol BS2 2ZX
Tel: 0845 60 60 655
Websites: www.nhscareers.nhs.uk and www.stepintothenhs.nhs.uk

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH),
3rd Floor Market Towers,
1 Nine Elms Lane, London SW8 5NQ
Tel: 020 3177 1600
Website: www.rsph.org.uk

UK Public Health Register, Chadwick Court,
15 Hatfields, London SE1 8DJ
Tel: 020 7827 5926
Website: www.publichealthregister.org.uk

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