| Education for health - A manual on health education in primary health care |
The spirit of primary health care and the principles of health education call for community self-reliance in health development. Health education programmes must accordingly be designed with active community involvement. This will ensure that programmes reflect local realities, meet local needs, and use local resources. Since it would be unproductive to develop a health education manual that promotes standardized programmes, this manual has provided readers with knowledge and skills to help them develop programmes that are relevant to the local situation. Having studied the manual readers should now have (1) an understanding of the human and social side of health and disease; (2) an appreciation of the value of involving individuals and communities in planning for themselves, and (3) the skills to facilitate this involvement.
At this point readers should be able to mention specific examples of how people's behavior effects their own health and the health status of the community. They should also be able to detect the reasons for these behaviors so that they can design and apply the most appropriate health education methods and strategies.
Important planning steps have been emphasized such as community diagnosis, objective setting, resource mobilization, strategy and method selection, scheduling of activities, monitoring of progress and evaluation. These procedures will yield the most effective health education programmes when community members are fully involved in every step along the way. This helps the community learn basic problem-solving skills which they can use to help themselves in the future.
The manual has shown that health education can be practiced at many levels and in many settings. Health education is relevant for promotion, prevention, detection, treatment and rehabilitation programmes. It can be practiced with individuals, families, groups and communities. Health workers themselves may also need education to improve the way they serve the public.
Health education should not be limited to any particular setting. Attention must focus on schools, social organizations, clinics, worksites and the community at large. People in each of these settings will have special needs which health education can address.
Another important issue raised in this manual is that health education consists of a wide variety of strategies and methods.
This is because health problems have many possible causes. Public awareness strategies help increase health knowledge. Community organization helps people acquire basic health resources. Social support strategies draw on the encouragement of family and friends to reinforce healthy action. A mixture of strategies is usually desirable. Although the choice of strategies may vary from problem to problem and from community to community, they all follow the basic ideal that health education should improve people's ability to make decisions and take actions to solve their own problems.
Finally, it should be emphasized again that the readers must feel free to adapt this manual to suit the needs of their countries. Already the provisional draft version has been translated into other languages in some countries in which it has been tested. The manual will be useful in training programmes and as a handbook for practitioners. Therefore the examples' stories, pictures and choice of words should be changed to fit the local social, cultural and organizational environment. If this manual is able to encourage readers to develop their own unique health education programmes, then it will have achieved its purpose.