Categories of objectives

In health education and promotion activities, there are four types of objectives. Health objectives tell you how big the health problem is, and how much it should be improved. The first step in a needs assessment is to identify a health problem. Here in the health objectives stage, you should decide by how much you want to reduce that problem.

A typical health objective might be:

  • Infant mortality will be reduced in our region to 30 deaths per 1,000 live births by the year 2012.

The next step is to look at the health-related behavioural objectives. The term 'behavioural objective' refers to the actions that you encourage people to perform, or not perform. For example, health-related behaviour may include using condoms to reduce the risk of diseases caused by unprotected sex, or using an insecticide-treated bed net, or taking anti-malaria drugs properly, and so on. Since the primary objective of health education is to change people's behaviour; behavioural objectives are very important. You should determine by how much you want to increase healthy behaviours or, conversely, by how much you want to reduce unhealthy behaviours in the community.

A poster displaying poor behaviour.

The use of posters might help you achieve behavioural objectives. (Photo: Carrie Teicher)

Examples of behavioural objectives might include the following:

  • To increase the percentage of households who use bed nets from 35% to 70% within six months.
  • To increase the number of people who use condoms from 15% to 45% within one year.

Using bed nets or using condoms are behaviours that we want to encourage through health education. Therefore, you should have behavioural objectives for all behaviours that you want to change through health education.

Learning objectives refer to educational or learning tools that are needed to achieve desired behavioural changes. Learning objectives describe the knowledge, attitude, beliefs or skill development that leads to the desired behaviour change. If learning objectives are achieved, then behavioural objectives will be achieved. An example of a learning objective could include:

  • 'At the end of the learning session, 60% of the people who attend will have learnt how to use bed nets correctly.'

Sometimes learning objectives can be developed for health education activities which will be undertaken for a longer period. For example, you might have a learning objective such as: 'By the end of 2013, 90% of the households in my community will be able to identify three means of HIV/AIDs prevention.'

The fourth type of objective is a resources objective. During a needs assessment, you may also identify a lack of resources or services without which behaviour change could not take place. For example, without a mosquito net you cannot expect households to use bed nets properly. In general, if there is a lack of resources or services which are important for behaviour change, you should make these services available, and you should have objectives for doing so. Such an objective is called a resource objective. For example 'by the end of this year all mothers of children under two in this village should have access to oral rehydration salts'.

A woman carrying a basket on her head walks with another woman who is carrying a small child. The small child is carrying a new bed net on their head.

This family have been given an insecticide-treated bed net. Unless the resources are available, you will not be able to meet your objectives. (Photo: UNICEF Ethiopia/Indrias Getachew)

Now try to identify the four different types of objectives. What kind of objective are each of the following?

  1. At the end of the learning session, 90% of the people who attended will be able to identify at least two risk factors for catching malaria.
  2. To increase the number of women who attend antenatal care visits from 21% to 45% within six months in Koticha community?
  3. At the end of this year six out of ten households should own mosquito nets.
  4. To reduce the number of cases of malaria in my village from 15 to 5 cases within six months.
Show answer

Answer 1 is a learning objective. 2 is a behavioural objective. 3 is a resource objective. 4 is a health objective.

Now try this out for yourself. Write an example of one behavioural objective and one learning objective for your health education activities on HIV/AIDS.

Show answer

A behavioural objective might be something like: 'To increase the number of couples who use condoms in my community from 20% to 40% over the next two years.' A learning objective could be: '70% of the people who attend the health education session in my community will be able to identify three ways of HIV/AIDS transmission.'

Last modified: Monday, 7 July 2014, 7:15 PM