|Education for Health (WHO, 1988, 261 pages)|
|Chapter 5: Health education with groups|
It is possible to plan a greater number and variety of educational programmes with formal groups. This is because formal groups have definite purposes and interests, specific leaders who can mobilize them, and commitment to meeting regularly and taking action. Since the members are known, it is possible to obtain greater cooperation from them in planning and carrying out a programme.
Since we know who are the members of a formal group, we can ask them about their needs.
Suppose there is a fishermen's association in the community. A health worker meeting this group, may learn many of their needs. For example they may say:
'Two fishermen drowned last year so members want to learn life-saving and water safety skills.'
'When we are cleaning and preparing fish we often get cuts on our hands. When these become infected and sore, we cannot work very well.'
'New nets are needed. The old ones have been repaired too often. We want new nets made of strong material.'
'Much of the fish goes bad before it reaches the city for sale. We want better storage and transport facilities.'
'We want to learn to read and write so that no-one will cheat us when we go to town to sell fish and buy supplies.'
'We have a lot of problems with earaches and infections.'
Educational programmes could be planned with a fishermen's association, including courses on water safety skills, discussions on resources for economic development, and meetings on general health promotion in the community.
Attending meetings of a formal group
You cannot be a member of every group in your community. Therefore, when you attend a meeting of a community group, you are often an outsider. Before a group will cooperate with you on health and educational programmes, its members must know and trust you.
Before you meet with a group, it is best to see the leaders. Explain what skills you have to offer. Find out if these would be of any benefit to the group. If the skills can help the group solve some of its problems, the leaders may invite you to a meeting to talk to the whole group. They may also tell you that they will report to their group what you have said. After the group has discussed your ideas, the leaders will contact you. Of course it would be nicer if you could explain your ideas directly to the group, but never go to a group meeting unless you are invited. Continue to show interest in the group, and in time the leaders may trust you enough to invite you to a meeting (if that is allowed by the group's rules).
When you attend a meeting, always show respect to the people in the group. The leaders will often give you a set time at which to speak. You should present your ideas clearly and simply. Do not waste the group's time. Do not be surprised if, after the group has finished discussing your ideas, you are asked to leave. The group may have private business that it does not want to discuss in front of a stranger.
If you stay through a whole meeting, do not make comments on other items on the group's agenda, unless the leaders specifically ask for your opinion. Once the members of the group get to know you and see that you respect them, they may begin asking for your opinions more often.
When you are presenting ideas to a group, it is important to encourage participation in discussion.
A formal group will be able to plan its own programmes and projects to solve its problems. A health worker could guide them in setting priorities, finding resources, and learning the skills needed.
During group meetings a health worker can present simple educational programmes. More often the health worker will encourage the group to use meeting times to plan and carry out self-help projects, or to receive training in self-help skills.
Look at these sections of the book for ideas: Chapter 6, on planning projects; this chapter, pages on training; this chapter, on holding meetings.
Helping a group to be successful
Once you have spent some time with a group, you will see whether the members are behaving in a way that will promote success or failure. If you have also been able to build a good relationship so that the members of the group trust you, you can try to help them improve their behavior towards each other. If the members behave like those in the Unity Committee, they will not be able to achieve any of their goals.
If you observe problems, such as disagreements, or uncooperative members, or confusion over making decisions in formal groups, you can meet with the group leaders privately. Find out what they think are the reasons for the difficulties. What have they done to try to improve the situation? You can teach them skills that will enable them to lead a group in a more successful way.
To which groups do you belong? Can you think of how those groups have encouraged you to change your behavior? In what ways do the member help you? Do you think that the member' behaviour in the group could be improved? How?
Do you try to set an example by your own behavior in the group? Do
you behave respectfully to all members? Do you allow others to speak? Do you
encourage others to express their views? Do you thank people for their