Cover Image
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

Avoiding prejudice and bias

All people have prejudices. This problem was discussed briefly in Chapter 1. Prejudice means judging a person in advance simply because they are a member of a certain group. Prejudices are strong feelings either in favour of or against a person because of their age-group, tribe, religion, level of education, or place of birth. To succeed with health education, you must be aware of your own prejudices and attitudes. It may be difficult, but you should not let them influence you in your work. You should not favour one group above another. Above all, do not let your prejudices bring pain or damage to the communities you are trying to serve. Here is an example of what can happen if we let prejudices get in the way of our work.

Mrs Selma has been a health worker in the district for many years. One day she learns that there is a new community development worker in the district. The previous community development worker was a good friend to Mrs Selma. She was sorry to see her leave. The new community worker is very young. He has just finished training. Mrs Selma thinks to herself 'How can this young boy help our district? He is younger than my own son. I doubt if he will be very useful.'

Mrs Selma goes to the preschool clinic every day to talk with the mothers. On one particular day they were complaining that they needed skills so that they could earn more money to feed their children. Mrs Selma's first thought was of the community development workers. Her old friend always used to help over matters like this. But now she fears that the new community development worker will be too young and inexperienced to be of much help. She does not ask him to help.

Mrs Selma has a prejudice against the new community development worker. Because of her prejudice, she is probably hurting the mothers she wants to help. The community development worker is a valuable resource, but now the mothers will not be able to benefit from his help.

Here is another example:

Mr Tess is a health worker in a district where there are many villages. He is supposed to visit each village once a fortnight. He has many friends in Bola Village. He visits Bola once or twice a week. Because he visits Bola Village so often, he does not have time to visit some of the other villages. Mr Tess has a prejudice in favour of Bola Village. This prejudice causes him to neglect the needs of the other villages.

The third example shows that we should never let our biases bring gain to us, while bringing cost or pain to the community.

Mr Sam works in a local dispensary. He knows all the drugs very well. He is grateful to his uncle who helped him to go to school to learn his job. The uncle still gives him money sometimes. The uncle has a small drug store in the town. If patients come to the dispensary and the drugs they need are in short supply, Mr Sam will sometimes tell them to go to town to buy the drug in his uncle's store rather than try to get the drug for them. This will cost the patients more money.

Although Mr Sam has good reason to like his uncle, this is not a reason for allowing his bias to hurt the patients who come to him for help.

We must be careful about our prejudices and biases. They may affect the trust and relationship we have with the community. They may make our work in health education much more difficult. If we want everyone to participate in solving community health problems, we cannot let our prejudices and biases dominate our reason.

Through health education we should learn about our own behavior too. We should try to improve ourselves so that we will be better able to serve the people and communities that need us.

Think about Mrs Selma, Mr Tess, and Mr Sam. What are the reasons for their prejudices and biases? Do you think that they can change their behavior? It may be difficult. What would you recommend that each of them do so that their prejudices or biases will not harm the community? Is there someone else who could help?

What are your own prejudicesabout other community health or social workers, about certain villa"" or neighborhoods, about certain community leaders, about certain groups of people (young people, elders, people of the opposite sex, people from other areas, people of different religions)? Do you feel biased in favour of some people?

What can you do to make sure that your own prejudices or bias" do not harm the people you are supposed to help?