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close this bookEducation for Health (WHO, 1988, 274 p.)
close this folderChapter 6: Health education with communities
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentWhat is a community?
View the documentWhen is community health education needed?
View the documentGetting opinion leaders involved
View the documentThe role of local organizations
View the documentThe community health committee
View the documentAdvisory and planning boards
View the documentIntersectoral coordination groups
View the documentOrganizing a health campaign
View the documentSpecial community events
View the documentMobilizing community resources for a project
View the documentDeveloping a partnership with people
View the documentThe role of the community health worker

When is community health education needed?

Some health-related problems can be solved by individuals alone. To solve others, the cooperation of many people is needed. Here are some examples showing when the whole community needs to work together to solve a problem.

The provision of a clean water supply system requires time, labour, and materials. It is unlikely that each individual or family in a community can afford their own hygienic well. Similarly, if a village relies on one or two springs for its water supply, no one can have a private source. In that case, everyone in the community must cooperate in the building and maintenance of a protected spring.

In some villages people keep dogs for hunting, herding, or protection. These dogs often move freely in the village and may spread rabies. To increase the protection of the community, all dog-owners in the community must cooperate in immunizing their dogs against rabies. Everyone, not just dog-owners, would be concerned.

In times of emergency for example, during floods many families may lose supplies of food and clothing and be exposed to new health risks. All members of the community must come together and share what they have, so that the whole community will survive.

In short, community health education is needed when a problem affects many or all people in the community and when the cooperation of everyone is required to solve the problem.

How can you develop health education at community level? There are three points to keep in mind:

- You should get the support of influential people in the community, those who are called 'opinion leaders' or 'key people'.

- You should be sure that all the people of the community are informed about the problem and are kept up-to-date on plans and progress. All available channels of communication should be used for this purpose.

- You should get the maximum number of people involved so that the community will really strengthen its capacity to do things for its health. This can be done through community health committees, advisory or planning boards, etc.

We will now examine how we can go about achieving these objectives.