Methodological Comparisons of Four National Health Education Specialist Role Delineation Research Projects (1978-2012) in the United States

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Four national health education specialist role delineation research projects were conducted during the period from 1978 to 2012. During that time, numerous research methods (some project-specific and others crosscutting) have been used to define and refine the roles and responsibilities of the health education specialist. The four research projects included in this review and analysis were the Role Delineation Project (1978-1981), Graduate Competencies Development Process (1992-1997), National Health Educator Competencies Update Project (1998-2006), and National Health Education Job Analysis (2008-2012). The aims of our investigation were to (1) provide a comprehensive examination of national competency-based research (1978-2012) designed to define the role of the health education specialist focusing on methodological comparisons across studies, (2) discuss the similarities and distinctions among the methodologies used within this body of research, (3) provide recommendations for future studies based on the methodological contributions of each of the research efforts, and (4) contribute to the education of current and future health education specialists about role delineation research methodology. Six key methodological findings were identified: standard item content and format, expert key informants, sampling, data collection, analytic procedures, and model development. Six major conclusions were drawn from the findings. Based on the analysis and conclusions, 10 recommendations for future research are offered in three general areas: professional input to studies, improved sampling, and data collection and analysis. The results of this investigation should be useful for professional preparation and professional development applications, as well as research endeavors.

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