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?