|Training Manual in Combatting Childhood Communicable Diseases Part I (Peace Corps, 1985, 579 pages)|
|Module 4: Health education|
|Session 16: Introduction to health education|
Health education is a process through which behavior changes are effected. Health problems are rooted in specific behaviors: changing those behaviors will change a community's health status.
There are two key elements in health education. First, health education involves community problem-solving. Behavior change will probably not occur in programs designed by outside planners; rather, it depends on the direct and ongoing involvement of the community. Community members must identify their needs, define their problems, participate in identifying program goals, priorities and methods, and share in the development of program resources and activities. This community involvement is the foundation for an effective program.
Second, health education involves community systems. Health problems in developing countries are caused by a complex interplay of many factors. The most immediately apparent may be a lack of information about illness and how health can be protected, a lack of appropriate health services, poor sanitation, malnutrition, and poverty. A health education program must incorporate these and all the other interrelated factors that contribute to the particular health problem addressed. Nor can a program be limited to those individuals whose behavior is to be changed. It must also include those friends, family, community opinion leaders and/ or institutions that influence the individual's decision to behave in a certain way. For example, a program to stop smoking among teenagers should be directed not only at the individual teen smokers but also at the teen's peer group that exerts pressure to smoke, at the teen's parents who may encourage smoking by their own smoking habits, at advertising agencies that portray smoking as glamorous, at the stores that make cigarettes available to minors, at the social and recreational activities that may foster smoking, etc. In sum, a health education program must incorporate and work with all relevant community systems.
Your role in the health education process will change according to the task at hand. You may be a catalyst initiating awareness of and desire to act on a problem; you may organize a group to address a problem; you may lead group discussions; you may assist people in learning problem-solving skills; you may help locate and mobilize resources; you may teach skills specific to a project. You may be able to develop inter-disciplinary teams -- extension workers, school teachers, health clinic personnel to work on shared problems. Since health problems are integrally related to broader community development issues, work in one sector impacts on all, A team approach can multiply the resources available to a community project as well as establish mutually reinforcing programs of community development and behavior change.
(From: Community Health Education in Developing Countries, p.1.,)