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close this bookEducation for Health (WHO, 1988, 274 p.)
close this folderChapter 2: People working with people
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentEstablishing good relationships
View the documentCommunicating clearly
View the documentEncouraging participation
View the documentAvoiding prejudice and bias

Establishing good relationships

Helping relationships

There are many people whose job is to help other people. For example' there are teachers, social welfare workers, extension agents, nurses, and others.

As a 'front-line' health worker, you also belong to the category of helping professionals. In order to be a successful helper, you must have a good relationship with those you want to help. If people like you, if they trust you, and if they feel comfortable with you, then you will be in a better position to help them.

You can get people to trust you by respecting them (regardless of who they are, what they believe, or where they come from), by listening to them, and by encouraging them to develop their own strengths.

The person you are

Who you are (your personality) and what you do (your actions) influence the way people look at you and think about you. Your personality and actions also influence the type of relationship you have with people in the community.

You are a health worker, but you are also many other things. You are a certain age and sex, you belong to a certain family, a social group, and a work group. You may be a member of a religious group. All these factors determine how the people in the community view you and what they expect of you. Different kinds of behavior may be expected of people according to their age, sex, religion, or type of work.

Know about the community's expectations and be aware of your own personality. This will help you in developing good relations within your community. Learn about yourself and your personality by observing how others react to you. If you find that community members generally are not listening to you or are avoiding you, ask trusted friends or co-workers if they have also observed this. Ask if they know any possible reasons for such a reaction. From what you learn about yourself, try to change the aspects of your character that worry the community.

How to establish good relationships

If you are to establish good relationships, people must see you at work. You must be visible to them. You must do things that people believe are useful and beneficial. You must reach out to people and explain your job to them. You must also listen to people and show concern about their problems and needs. You must always be available to give help when people need it.


In order to establish a good relationship, it is necessary to visit the community Often, using whatever means is available. These health workers travel by horse to reach the villages they serve. Others may use bicycles, motorcycles, public buses, or lorries, or they may walk.

When you start working in a community, you should introduce (or reintroduce) yourself to people in that community. Visit the leaders and representatives of all the various groups. Meet with the other people who work to improve the community. Visit religious and political leaders, teachers, agricultural workers, traditional healers, other health workers, and social welfare workers. Learn about their work. Explain your job to them. Discuss how all of you can work together to make your community better.

Finally, remember that the purpose of health education is to help people solve their problems by their own efforts. It is your role to help community members realize what they can do to help themselves, and to teach them the skills needed to do so. By using health education methods in your work, you will be able to help people to do something good about health. People will then feel better about themselves. They will also appreciate you for your concern and for your interest in their welfare. Your relationships will grow and improve.

Who are the people in your private or professional life you have good relationships with? What makes those relationships good! Are there any people you do not have such a good relationship with? What can you do to improve your relationships with those people!