The Suitability of Courses for a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Education

Article by Dr. Deryck D. Pattron, Ph.D.

ABSTRACT:Health is defined by the World Health Organization as the complete state of physical, mental and social well being and not just simply the absence of diseases. Health Education is the provision of information and knowledge about health and all its implication for reducing, preventing or eliminating health problems. It involves behavioural and attitudinal changes that make the individual, community or society more accountable for their own health. Health Education degrees, particularly Bachelor of Science degrees in health education is particularly lacking in the Caribbean Region, including Trinidad and Tobago. The main reason for this is unknown. Maybe there is no demand, or maybe there exists sufficient health educators in the Caribbean Region and there is no need for any more. One of the contributing factors maybe the lack of information on what courses to offer at the Bachelor of Science degree level in Health Education. The paper seeks to correct this deficiency by providing information on courses necessary to be taken for the Bachelor’s in Health Education as a matter of public health priority. Key words: Health Education, Public Health, BSc in Health Education.

INTRODUCTION:Health Education is defined as Education for Health. Health is defined by the World Health Organization as the complete state of physical, mental and social well being and not just the complete absence of disease. (1)

Health is not only positively correlated with the availability of men, materials, and money, but on other socioeconomic resources such as education, water and food. The equitable distribution of health and social resources are necessary for addressing the health needs of the population. (1, 2)

Other factors affecting health include social, cultural, economic, biological and environmental. But, all of these factors may not have the desired effect if people do not take an active involvement in their own health and adopt healthy behaviours and ensuring a healthy environment. (1, 2)

The declaration of the Alma-Alta in 1978, states that primary health care is the first level of contact between the individual, community and population and the national health care system. All people everywhere should have access to primary health care that would enable them to enjoy a socially and economically productive life. (2)

Health Education is necessary for all stakeholders in health in order to achieve health for all by the year 2000 as pledged by the World Health Organization and its member states. The year 2000 has already come and gone and most member states have not yet fully realized this resolution for Health for all by year 2000. One of the most significant ways of implementing this resolution is by adopting proactive measures such as education and training as necessary tools in the fight against ill-health and diseases. (3, 4)

At present there exist no academic institution locally or regionally that offers a Bachelors of Science in Health Education. As for a needs assessment carried out in Trinidad, revealed that there exist approximately an 80 % deficiency in Health Educators in the Ministry of Health, the three major Hospitals and seventeen Health Centers throughout the country. A great need therefore exist for health educators and this deficiency should be urgently addressed. Training and education is important for development of competencies and skills in any discipline. The need for training and academic institutions to place health education in their curriculum would serve to correct the much needed health educator’s deficiency in Trinidad.

Objective of Bachelor of Science in Health Education:• To produce graduates with a good mix of theoretical and practical skills and competencies that will enable them to extend the boundaries of knowledge relevant to improving Health Education, strengthening local health systems and enhancing individual, community and population health.

Benchmarking of Bachelor of Science in Health Education with other similar local, regional and international Bachelor of Science in Health Education• Verification and validation.• Standardization and harmonization.• Local, regional and international compliance, recognition and accreditation.

Core Course Content for Bachelor of Science in Health Education:• Concepts & Principles in Health Education.• Techniques & Skills in Health Education.• Health Promotion.• School Health Education.• Problem Solving Techniques.• Health Education Theories & Models.• Evaluation.• Family Life Education.• Research in Health Education.

Description of Some of the Core Course Content for Bachelor of Science in Health Education:• Health Education-Involves behavioural and attitude changes and makes individuals more accountable and responsible for their own health.

• Application of Behavioural Change Theories & Models:(i) Stages of Change Theory-is based on the principle that behaviour is learned through modifications of simple behaviour.(ii) Health Belief Model is based on the perceived efficacy is dependent on external influences promoting desired behaviour. (iii) Reasoned Action & Planned Behaviour is based on the principle that a person considers the consequences before performing a particular behaviour, but other factors influence actual performance of behaviour. (iv) Social Cognitive Theory is based on the principle that personal behaviour is influenced by the social environment. (v) Diffusion of Innovation Theory is based on the principle that the rate of acceptance of a new technology is based on the appeal to the senses. (vi) Field Theory is based on the principles that social influences affects human consciousness and vice-versa in a state of dynamic flux.

• School Health Education-enables planning, coordination and formulation of school health policies and programmes.

• Family Life Education is taught according the following course topics:(i) Family living and community relationships.(ii) Value of postponing sexual activities.(iii) Human sexuality.(iv) Human reproduction & contraceptive.(v) Etiology, prevention and effects of sexually transmitted diseases.(vi) Stress management & resistance to peer pressure.(vii) Development of positive safe concepts & respect for others.(viii) Parenting skills.(ix) Substance abuse.(x) Child abuse.(xi) Vagrancy.

• Community Health Education(i) Community composition.(ii) When community health education is needed?(iii) Getting opinion leaders involved.(iv) The role of local & foreign organizations.(v) Community health committee.(vi) Advisory & planning boards.(vii) Insectoral coordinating groups.(viii) Organizing health campaigns-a health campaign starts around one issue e.g. “clean up the community”, “immunize your child”, “good food for healthy bodies”, “clean water for good health”, “say no to drugs”.(ix) Mobilize community resources for a project.(x) Developing partnership with people.(xi) Role of community health workers.

• Health Promotion(i) Putting health education methods into practice. (ii) It involves enabling or empowering, mediating or facilitating and advocacy or lobbying.(iii) People participation.(iv) When to find people?(v) Where to find people?(vi) How to involve people?

• Health Promotion-Methods & Media(i) Health talks.(ii) Fables(iii) Stories.(iv) Case studies.(v) Demonstrations.(vi) Posters.(vii) Displays.(viii) Flip charts.(ix) Photographs.(x) Projected materials.(xi) Tape.(xii) Recordings.(xiii) Films/movies.(xiv) Newspaper.(xv) Magazine.(xvi) Radio.(xvii) Television.(xviii) Publications.(xix) World Wide Web.(xx) Art.(xxi) Dance.

• Ottawa & Caribbean Charter for Health Promotion as valuable frameworks for development of sustainable health policies.

• Research in Health Education(i) Develop research skills.(ii) Literature reviews.(iii) Research question formulation.(iv) Sampling techniques.(v) Study designs; quantitative & qualitative.(vi) Analyzing & presenting data.(vii) Identifying role of theories in health education research.(viii) Role of ethics and values in conducting research.(ix) Evaluating a scientific paper.(x) Questionnaire design.(xi) Writing a research proposal.

CONCLUSION:Health Education is important for all people regardless of ethnicity, cultural, and socio-economic factors. (1, 2) The Caribbean Region is no different. In Trinidad, many non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer and strokes plague our people and rob them of their most valuable productive years. It is therefore important not only do we need to have proactive health education programmes but also effective health promotion programmes incorporating advocacy, mediation and enabling as tools in achieving behavioural and attitudinal changes, thus making people more accountable for their own health. (3, 4) Additionally, this can only be achieved by having the necessary health education programmes in place such as the Bachelor of Science in Health Education offered locally and regionally. The prescribed courses for this degree should include some of or all components as described herein in order to achieve the right mix of theoretical and practical skills and competencies for expanding the boundaries of Health Education knowledge and for making a significant contribution in the field.

REFERENCES:1. WHO. Education for Health: A manual on health education in primary health care. Geneva: World Health Organization; 1988.2. Alma-Ata. Primary Health Care. Geneva: World Health Organization; 1978.3. WHO. Health Programme Evaluation: guiding principles. Geneva: World Health Organization; 1978.4. PAHO. Health Promotion Anthology. Washington, D.C.: Pan American Health Organization; 1996.

About the Author

Dr. Pattron is a Scholar, Scientist and Consultant in Public Health.

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