Oct 23, 2020 9:00 AM

Author: Allison Elmer, Health Educator, HCI Patient and Public Education Department

group of five female health educators standing in an inflatable colon
Health Educators pose in front of CECE, the Giant Colon at a Be Well Utah Event in 2019‚Äč
​​I have always enjoyed doing research on health care and health-related topics. As a health educator and cancer information specialist at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI), I feel lucky that I get to use this passion to help others.
photo of allison elmer
Allison Elmer

National Health Education Week celebrates health educators and recognizes the important role they play in health care. Health educators have training and education in community health, health literacy, public health, health education, and other related areas.

There are several types of health educators at HCI and University of Utah Health:

  • Community health workers
  • Cancer information specialists
  • Program managers
  • Research assistants
  • Clinical trial coordinators
  • Patient navigators

My job at HCI is to provide accurate, health-literate (easy to understand) cancer information to patients, their family members, and anyone else who has questions about cancer topics. One example of the help we provide is deciphering information from the internet. These days, people usually go online when they have a health question. We're trained to figure out whether the information on a website is accurate, and we help people understand what that info means.

Our role as cancer health educators includes many services:

  • Spending one-on-one time with patients and family members, providing health-literate resources and information on diseases and treatments
  • Finding resources and answering questions about topics like caregiving, eating well, places to stay, and more
  • Connecting with community organizations to provide education and care throughout the state of Utah
  • Helping patients figure out questions to ask their health-care team to understand treatment options
  • Finding resources on specific cancer types for clinics to give to patients
  • Connecting different communities—such as the Latinx population, young adult cancer patients, Native American communities, and Pacific Islander communities—to care and resources specific to them

Our job as health educators and cancer information specialists allows us to connect with patients on an individual and community level. Although most of us are working remotely for now and are not able to see patients in person as often as we would like, we can help virtually by using services such as live chat and texting. Whatever the format, we spend as much time as the person needs to find resources, and we ensure they receive accurate answers to their questions. Helping patients understand their disease and learn about the resources available to them is a crucial element in providing them with the best health.

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Cancer touches all of us.

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