Overview of a Masters in Health Promotion
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health promotion as “the process of enabling people to increase control over, and to improve, their health. It moves beyond a focus on individual behaviour towards a wide range of social and environmental interventions.” Health promotion, also known as health education, is a subset of public health focused on educating a community about health care, infection and disease prevention. To become a public health official that specializes in health awareness, education, and promotion, a master’s degree in public health (MPH) is generally a requirement. The different degrees that offer a master in health promotion include: general MPH, MPH in health education, MPH in public health development programs, MPH in health education and promotion, and MHA (masters of health administration) in healthcare education or an MSN (masters of science in nursing) in healthcare education.
Developing health public policy is the primary means of how health promotion occurs. These policies address the prerequisites of health such as income, housing, food, security, employment, and working conditions, among others. Changing behavioral risk factors is a large part of health promotion and education—attempting to prevent illnesses by informing and educating individuals and communities about health-related topics (nutrition, exercise, STDs, etc.). There are different ways and locations that health promoters use to work on changing a community’s health. According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, 51% of health promoters work in healthcare and social assistance, and an additional 23% work in government. Locations that health promoters may work in include health/medical care facilities, schools, colleges and universities, government offices, public health departments, non-profit organizations, private businesses, and worksites.
Usually health promoters work as a team to assess a certain audiences needs, and then decide how to meet those needs. Health promoters’ organize events, lectures, classes, demonstrators, or they may develop education material such as a video or pamphlet as an attempt to reach out to a certain group or community. Workplace health promotion programs are popular in the United States and combine the efforts of employers, employees, and society to improve the health of people at work. These workplace programs usually include exercise, nutrition, smoking and addiction programs, and stress management.
What is the course curriculum for a Masters in Health Promotion?
As in all programs, the masters in health promotion varies between school sand universities, as well as the type of masters you get (MPH, MHA, MSN, etc.). Usually a person who pursues a masters in health promotion will have a bachelor degree or previous work experience in a similar field such as nursing psychology, and the masters program will build upon those previously learned skills. A masters program will want to prepare their students with the abilities to become executive directors, supervisors, or senior health educators of health promotion and educational organizations. Classes will help you possess skills in planning and evaluation programs, as well as implementation of programs and supervision.
Health promotion professions also need good people skills as they spend the majority of their time in groups or working one-on-one with an individual. Good communication, as well as an ability to speak in public, is necessary in this career for teaching classes and giving presentations. Working with diverse populations of different cultural backgrounds is commonplace in health promotion, and therefore you must need to be sensitive to cultural issues and willing to work with people of varied backgrounds. Creativity and skilled writing skills are also necessary in this field, as creating programs and materials is a regular activity in most health promotion jobs.
Some examples of classes you may take in your masters in health promotion degree program include, but are not limited to:
- Foundations in Nutrition
- Food Values, Diet Design & Health
- Multicultural Health & Nutrition
- Current Issues in Nutrition
- Prenatal & Infant Nutrition
- Childhood & Adolescent Nutrition
- Sports Nutrition
- Foundations in Diet Therapy
- Health & Nutrition in the Older Adult
- Nutrition and Fitness
- Nutrition Research
- Methods in Health Education
In addition to graduating with a master in health promotion, you can also chose to become a certified health educator specialist (CHES). This is a credential offered by the National Commission of Health Education Credentialing, Inc. and is awarded after students or graduates pass an examination on the basic areas of responsibility for a health educator. You must also complete 75 hours of approved continuing education courses or seminars over a 5-year period in order to keep your certification. The certification may give you one-up in the interview process, and some employers even require their candidates to have the certification.
Salary Data for Masters in Health Promotion Graduates
Although there are occasional health promotion positions open to those with just a bachelor’s degree, it’s uncommon. With a master degree in health promotion you will have a wider range of job choices as well as an expected higher salary. This higher degree will also allow you to work in a leadership role in the health world, educating others about disease prevention, diet, exercise, and other ways to encourage good health. You’ll be able to work in any number of positions, from promoting health concepts during public media campaigns to evaluating patients’ health habits.
In 2008 the median annual wages of health promoters, according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, were $44,000, with the middle 50 percent earning between $33,170 and $60,810. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $26,210, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $78,260. The salary you’ll make depends upon the industries you work in though. The following are the median annual wages in the most popular industries who employ public health promoters:
- Medical and surgical hospitals: $56,390
- Colleges, universities, and professional schools: $49,050
- Local government: $43,040
- Outpatient care centers: $36,830
- Individual and family services: $36,050
Health promotion salary that is expected also depends on the job you do. There are multiple choices: health educator in a school, instructor in a medical facility, a government position, etc. Various fields and the salary you can expect include:
- Physical Education Teacher: $47,800
- High School Health Teacher: $45,118
- Public Health Educator: $41,000
- Nurse Educator: $55,000
- Non-RN Health Educator: $36,900
Others job you can get include health promotion coordinator, health and fitness program manager, school health coordinator, sexual health coordinator, study coordinator for an international lung cancer study, and many more. A salary of around $40,000 and $50,000 can usually be expected when working in the health promotion field, and as someone who holds a master’s degree, you’ll likely be offered a salary higher than average. There are also benefits packages that come with these job positions, which include health and dental coverage, paid vacation days, transportation expense reimbursement, and sometimes even tuition programs if you wish to go back to school for even further advanced training.
Further Resources About Masters in Health Promotion Programs:
There are numerous U.S. government agencies concerned with health promotion, including:
Government agencies in the U.S. concerned with health promotion:
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: The Coordinating Center for Health Promotion within this branch of government mission is: “Prevent disease, improve health, and enhance human potential through evidence based interventions and research in maternal and child health, chronic disease, disabilities, genomics, and hereditary disorders.” The Coordinating Center for Health Promotion includes the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion and the National Center for Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.
- The United States Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine: This center “provide[s] worldwide technical support for implementing preventive medicine, public health, and health promotion/wellness services into all aspects of America’s Army and the Army Community.” There are health promotion job opportunities with the U.S. Army.
U.S. Non-governmental Health Promotion Organizations:
- The American Public Health Association (APHA): The Public Health Education and Health Promotion section of the APHA website provides many helpful links and resources to the Health Promotion career field.
- The Wellness Council of America (WELCOA): This is a national not-for-profit industry trade group that supports workplace health promotion programs and is dedicated to improving the health and well-being of all working Americans.
- URAC: This is an independent, nonprofit organization, and a well-known leader in promoting health care quality through its accreditation, education and measurement programs. Their website has tons of information and resources for health promotion students and workers.
Information about health educators:
- American Association for Health Education: AAHE’s mission is to advance the profession by serving health educators and others who strive to promote the health of all people through education and other systematic strategies.
- Society for Public Health Education: SOPHE promotes healthy behaviors, healthy communities, and healthy environments through its membership, its network of local chapters, and its numerous partnerships with other organizations. SOPHE members work in elementary/secondary schools, universities, voluntary organizations, health care settings, worksites, and local/state/federal government agencies.