Health Education vs. Health Promotion: What’s the Difference?

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A health educator gives a presentation to a group of adults.One of the health administrator’s most critical roles is to implement policies that promote public health and wellness, advocating for healthy habits and disease prevention measures. Through these programs, health administrators may seek to raise awareness about infectious diseases, warn against unhealthy nutritional habits or simply remind patients of the need to wash their hands regularly.

In pursuit of these goals, health administrators may employ methods related to health education and health promotion. While closely related, the two concepts differ in some important ways.

One way to understand health education vs. health promotion and be successful in designing and implementing public health plans is to pursue a formal education in health administration or a related field.

What Is Health Education?

The term “health education” refers to the efforts and strategies that health administrators and public health professionals employ to educate patients or the general public about issues related to health, wellness and disease. By informing individuals about health and wellness issues, the ultimate goal is to empower better decision-making, improve population health and curb the spread of disease.

Examples of Health Education

Most people are exposed to health education from a young age. When parents remind children to wash their hands after using the bathroom, or when school teachers urge students to cover their mouth when coughing, they’re providing basic lessons in health education.

Health education can also occur in academic settings. For example, colleges and universities may provide classes in sound nutrition or inform students about the ways that their dietary decisions impact their overall health and well-being.

Health education may also occur during a routine doctor’s visit, such as when a physician informs patients that they’ve reached the age when regular cancer screenings are recommended. Doctors can educate patients about the importance of regular screenings simply by handing them a pamphlet or directing them to an informative website.

What Is Health Promotion?

Health promotion is concerned with designing programs and establishing guidelines for handling specific health issues.

Educating individuals about health and wellness issues is an important component of health promotion. However, it goes beyond just informing patients by providing more specific policies to improve the health of the populace.

Components of Health Promotion

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a key aspect of health promotion is health governance. For example, political leaders may set higher sales tax rates to discourage the use of certain products, such as cigarettes, while providing financial incentives for individuals to choose healthy foods. The development and maintenance of public spaces, including walkways, can encourage regular exercise.

Health literacy is also essential. Governments can play a part by posting signs and public health messaging, providing pamphlets and printed materials and encouraging people to be vigilant against diseases, such as diabetes. Health administrators also play an important part here, employing basic strategies of health education and making their patients aware of important steps they can take toward healthier living.

For it to be successful, health promotion must consider social and cultural factors. Health administrators and public health advocates look for health issues that are specific to certain communities. An example of this is targeting public health messaging to lower-income individuals who share a higher propensity for diabetes.

Health Education vs. Health Promotion: Differences in Population Health

Ultimately, health education and health promotion are both integral to advance population health. Together, they can create a comprehensive strategy to promote healthy living and prevent the spread of disease.

Health administrators can advance health education — the cornerstone of public health — in many ways. For example, seminar and classroom learning can provide individuals with an opportunity to learn more about how the body works, how certain diseases spread or how they can create healthy environments in their own home.

These efforts to promote health literacy can support broader efforts to advocate for healthier public policies, whether that entails easier access to clinical care or improved standards of nutrition in school lunchrooms. Health administrators can be powerful advocates for such policies.

Become a Leader in Population Health

In their efforts to promote healthier lifestyles, administrators have many tools at their disposal, including the tools of health education and literacy, as well as health promotion and policy formation.

A good way to develop competence with these tools is to pursue an advanced degree in health administration. Consider Duquesne University’s online Master of Health Administration program and its Population Health concentration, in which students can learn the skills needed to change attitudes and policies to address disease detection, preventive care, and more.

Find out more about this program and how it can empower you to make a difference in health administration and population health.

Recommended Readings

Guide to Types of Healthcare Plans in the U.S.: Differences and Benefits

Doctor-Patient Confidentiality: Tips and Resources for Health Administrators

What Is Population Health and Why Does It Matter?

Sources:, Difference Between Health Promotion and Health Education

Nursing Standard, “Exploring Health Promotion and Health Education in Nursing”

Rural Health Information Hub, Defining Health Promotion and Disease Prevention

Rural Health Information Hub, Health Education

ScienceDaily, “Increasing Public Awareness is Vital in the Fight Against Infectious Diseases”

World Health Organization, Health Promotion

World Health Organization, Improving Health Literacy