In the previous section you have learned something about the concept of health and within this section you will learn about health education. As a Health Extension Practitioner, health education is among the most important tasks that you are going to perform.
From your previous experiences, either as a worker or as a community member, what do you think health education is?
The purpose of health education is to enable your community members to develop accurate and effective concepts about their own health and the health of their family and their community. Health education is an important component of health extension programmes.
If you are able to deliver the right health education messages the people in your community will become aware of their health problems and of ways of preventing health problems for themselves and those around them. Health education is important in developing a positive attitude in order to support behaviour change voluntarily, and help people in the households in your area solve their own health problems where appropriate.
Health education uses a wide range of different educational methods and strategies to lead people to make the right decisions for themselves about their health (Box 1.4). Health education messages should be attractive and appropriate for the target audiences and will move the people individually or as a group to take their share of responsibility in preventing exposure to disease.
Box 1.4 Promoting healthy behaviours
Health education is a part of healthcare that is concerned with promoting healthy behaviours. Think of those people who as a result of receiving health education messages are now using an insecticide treated net (ITN), or the number of households that have constructed latrines so that they are able to protect themselves from disease.
A person's behaviour may be the main cause of their health problems, but it can also be the main solution. It is through health education that you as a Health Extension Practitioner will be able to help people to understand their behaviours and how this behaviour affects their health. Your work will encourage them to make their own choices for leading a healthy life.
But Health Extension Practitioners are not expected to force them to change. Behaviour change comes through persuasion about the outcomes of unhealthy behaviour and its consequences on the health of the individuals, families and communities.