The profession of Health Educator (also called Health Promoter) may not exist in your country. Health Promotion is a well-developed field in North America (both Canada and the United States). It relates to informing individuals and the general public about issues of public health; teaching them health prevention, and promoting a healthy life style.
Job postings in Health Promotion are common, but they use a variety of titles: e.g., Health Educator, Health Promoter, Health Program Coordinator, Outreach Worker/Health Promoter, Health Promotion Specialist. These are all synonyms for the same type of work.
Many job postings require a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in Health Promotion, Health Education or Health Planning. Often you will see the phrase: “…..or equivalent discipline”, or “An equivalent combination of education and experience will be considered.” In such cases a background in medicine (nursing, medical doctor) is usually acceptable, especially if you can demonstrate that you have experience in educating patients, or the general public
The job of a health promoter may deal with different aspects of health education: social research, policy planning, program development and implementation. In some health promotion jobs you will develop information and educational materials, or you will work directly with patients and with the public to provide information and advice for a healthy life style.
Depending on the nature of the job, the position may require different prior experience. Here are some requirements we found in actual job postings:
- Minimum 3 years experience in health promotion and/or community development
- Experience working with families from diverse communities and backgrounds
- Experience in community health and multi-disciplinary team model
- Extensive experience with infants and toddlers
- Experience counseling teens
- Minimum of three years experience working with multicultural children and families
- Experience facilitating groups and utilizing adult learning techniques
- Experience in Health Promotion, community mobilization, diversity and access issues
- Program planning, implementation and evaluation required
- Experience in a community health setting
Do you fit?
If you have mostly clinical experience, you may feel that you do not fit the requirements for a Health Promoter position. Consider these questions:
- Have you spent significant time educating your patients about prevention or a healthy life style?
- Have you enjoyed educating your patients? Have you devoted time to finding additional health information for them? Did you use any special ways to explain medical information so that it would be understandable for your patient?
- Do you have experience working with patients’ families?
- Have you delivered any lectures to the public, or written any articles related to health prevention or healthy life style?
- Did you sit on any committees or participate in any initiatives related to public health or health promotion?
- Did you have to make decisions, or participate in policy making and policy implementation related to public health?
- Have you worked extensively with children, parents, disabled people, or patients from high-risk groups?
- Did you have patients from diverse social backgrounds? Did you have to adapt your approach to the patient depending on their background, social, family and financial situation?
If you have answered yes to some of these questions, you have experience relevant to the work of a Health Promoter in Canada.
For each question you have answered with “yes,” ask yourself: “What did I learn doing this? How relevant is it for the Canadian environment?”
Use the answers to prepare your resume and cover letter for positions in health promotion.
Can I improve my chances?
Some job requirements may seem very far away from what you have done before, and difficult to understand. You may still have a chance to get a job as a health promoter.
There are two ways in which you can improve your chances:
- Do research to find out what those vague requirements really mean. You may discover that some elements of your previous work and education actually meet the requirements. The best way to do research is to go to the organizations that hire health educators, and talk to knowledgeable people there. Such conversations are called information interviews and are part of the networking that all professionals in Canada do in order to build contacts and to stay informed in their professional field.
- Volunteer. Many organizations that do health promotion will be glad to accept you as a volunteer. Through volunteering, you will learn more about the field of health promotion, develop skills related to the job, and make useful professional contacts. Most importantly, volunteer work appears on your resume as work experience in Canada.
The position of a Health Promoter requires knowledge and understanding of different aspects of prevention, health promotion and the system of community services that is characteristic for Canada. Here are some “real life” requirements:
- Knowledge and awareness of issues related to homelessness, immigration, mental health, poverty and discrimination
- Knowledge of parenting issues and child development
- Knowledge of health promotion principles
- Sound working knowledge and experience with diverse youth communities and the ability to work from an anti-oppression framework
- Strong knowledge of the social determinants of health and health policy issues which affect different communities and in particular, the sexual and reproductive health issues facing youth
- Knowledge of, and experience with, community development principles and health advocacy initiatives
As with experience, some of this knowledge was required at your work back at home. Other elements may be totally new to you. You can gain this information by reading and doing research, and by contacting organizations that deal with health promotion and volunteering with them. Volunteering in your own community may also be useful.
Communication skills are also very important for this profession, and are closely connected to program development. Skills requirements may include:
- designing and facilitating workshops
- presentation, group facilitation, conflict resolution
- providing information and referrals
In addition, you must be able to work in cooperation with other groups and organizations – community services, different ethnic groups, marginalized groups, etc.
Communication and teamwork skills are transferable skills. This means that you have developed them in a different type of work (for instance, working as a doctor, or a nurse on a surgical team), but you can use them in a new career.
Learn how to talk about transferable skills in your resume and at an interview.
A Health Promoter also needs strong planning, implementation and coordination skills such as:
- policy development and community development
- designing appropriate health promotion strategies
- designing, planning and delivering programs and initiatives (often with a focus on a special group, like youth or parents)
- designing, developing, implementing and evaluating outreach programs
- curriculum development
Computer skills (proficiency in MS Office), and some research and statistical skills may be required too.
The job duties of a health promoter vary significantly for each position. Review our sample job descriptions, taken from real job postings.
Duties common for most, or all, positions include:
- needs assessment, identifying needs, issues, barriers
- developing and implementing health promotion strategies and programs
- designing and facilitating workshops
- facilitating groups or offering individual support with focus on different health issues: pregnancy, childbirth, infant care, issues related to chronic conditions or disabilities
- cooperation with various programs, organizations, governmental bodies, community and social groups
Although rarely, you may find jobs or volunteer opportunities with more limited scope: one example would be writing health promotion and health prevention texts for publications and Web sites.
Salaries in health promotion are in the range of $30,000 to $50,000 per year. We found the following annual salary ranges specified in job postings:
$37,471 – $47,106 plus benefits
$45,311 – $53,462
$38,326 – $47,961
$39,760 – $44,019
$48,798 – $55,452
$39,315 – $48,950
Where are the Jobs?
Positions in Health Promotion / Health Education exist in:
Municipalities, regional administration
Community Health Centres, sometimes hospitals
Specialized Programs and Organizations (most often not-for-profit, serving particular client groups or addressing particular health issues). Examples are: Planned Parenthood, the Canadian Diabetes Association
Where to Find Job Postings
Your best bet is to find out which organizations in your town or neighborhood have health promotion programs, and to contact them directly. It is also important to identify leading organizations (such as the Canadian Diabetes Association) and check their Web sites frequently.