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Public Health – Helping When Doctors Run Out of Time!

I work in the field of public health, but most people have no idea what that means – or what we do. Even though public health has been around for over a century, people are still confused.

Public health – simply put

To explain it simply, I tell people that we help the doctors by providing the education that the doctors would LIKE to provide to patients, but they just run out of time. Since doctors get about 7-9 minutes with a patient, it’s hard to examine someone, diagnose them, and educate them – all in one visit. They do the best they can during that time.

I have learned so much from my Asthma Doc over the years. At every visit, he teaches me more and more (even if it’s just a few minutes at a time!). He is absolutely brilliant, and I am lucky to have him as our doc. He has even drawn diagrams to help explain things to me or the kids. I’m amazed to find myself still learning new things from him after 18 years.

In public health, Health Educators can spend anywhere from 30 – 90 minutes educating people: one on one, whole families, church groups, civic groups, school groups, etc.

Working together with doctors to educate

We work seamlessly with doctors and hospitals because we can spend extra time educating patients. It’s the perfect partnership! Doctors diagnose, prescribe, and educate as much as they can during the office visit. Then we can reinforce what the doctor has already told them and add a little more information.

Can’t remember how to use your inhaler? I gotcha! I can show you the proper technique. Then I want you to teach it back to me to make sure you are doing it correctly.

How are you supposed to use a peak flow meter? I’ll show you!

What are the signs and symptoms of an asthma attack? Let me explain them, have you repeat them back to me, then I’ll leave a handout so you don’t forget.

Wondering when you should go to the emergency room? Let’s review your Asthma Action Plan!

As a Health Educator, my area of expertise includes asthma and an Asthma Home Visit program.

But my colleagues can:

And much more!

Health Educators are busy all day helping people be safe and have a good quality of life. They are the doctor’s best resource!

So check with your state or local health department and see if they can help you with asthma education (or anything else!). Health departments have a variety of programs, but they vary depending on funding. And since most of the programs are funded by grants, it may not cost you anything to get help!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Kat Tynan
    12 months ago

    With grant and state funding, it seems like there are disparities state to state and county to county with what is available. Public health departments have always focused on infectious diseases, older adults, and children’s programming where I’ve lived. In my experience, there is a gap in Adult Asthma Education resources.

  • Andrea M Jensen, CHES (R), AE-C author
    12 months ago

    Yes, it’s all based on funding. CDC doesn’t have enough money to fund all of the states so they can have Asthma Programs. I live in one of the lucky states, but even though we have funding, we can only fund 2 counties in our state – but they have more than 2 million people of the 3 million in our state.

    It’s hard to reach everyone who needs it, I really wish there was more funding available for asthma education. I also think it’s important to make sure adults get the asthma education they need, not just children.

    We need it just as much as children! I often work with people who have asthma and have had it all their lives and THINK they know what they are doing – but they are on the wrong medication or are using their inhaler incorrectly.

    It’s hard 🙁

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