4th Quarter, 2008
Teacher Scholarship Winner
“I am a graduate student University of AZ studying public health. It is my intent to utilize video to promote health among Native Americans.”
A Portion of Craig’s Winning Essay:
A philosophy is made up of both a viewpoint and a system of values. A viewpoint is based upon a certain perspective as to how things really are. Our system of values reflects the way we feel things should be (Feste, 1995). Therefore much of what I label my philosophy of health education is a balancing act between my ideals (highly influenced by academic training) and my professional practice (education and community health).
My philosophy is also based upon intuitively knowing the difference between what will work and won’t work. To complicate matters, human behavior is far too convoluted to ever expect any one philosophy to effectively manage it most of the time. Therefore, situational ethics do influence my thinking from time to time.
An effective health educator must be flexible enough to try any approach that will work so long as it is ethical. Having nearly earned a Ph.D. in health education, I have been empowered with the cognitive knowledge of many approaches to behavior management. In fact, I believe that it is the choice of behavior management models that ultimately delineates a particular health education philosophy.
With this in mind, I will now describe my personal philosophy of education. Health and Health Education In order to follow the tenets of my philosophy, my understanding of health and health education must be clearly understood. With qualification, I accept the World Health Organization’s definition of health as a state of physical, mental, and social well being (WHO, 1948).
However, it is not possible to achieve complete well being. In fact, it must be emphasized that it is quite possible to live a happy and fulfilled life in the presence of disease. This is critical in an era of increasing chronic disease.
I believe Breslow arrived at the best definition of well-being. Breslow states, “Health exists as a certain state toward the positive end of a spectrum as well as escape from the negative end, manifested by disease and ultimately death” (Breslow, 1990, p. 11). Health is further described as health balance and health potential. Health balance relates to the medical model of the dynamic equilibrium between the human organism and its environment (Noack, 1987).
All individuals must vigorously maintain a stable relationship with their outside world. This often involves action on the part of an individual to change an otherwise unhealthy world (Breslow, 1990). The development and maintenance of human potential is crucial. Human potential (resilience) is the ability of an individual to withstand all of the adverse effects of an environment, i.e. noise, loss of a loved one, pollution and other hazards of living (physical, mental and social). Effective health education incorporates these definitions as objectives. Health education is an emerging profession and as such is still in the process of defining itself. One purpose of the Role Delineation Model has been to achieve such a unique definition.
The field is made up of a combination of theories and disciplines. Hopefully, we as health educators have learned not to repeat the mistaken concepts of the past. Health education is no longer just disease and sanitation education. Disease education wrongfully assumed that the acquisition of correct knowledge would naturally result in positive health attitudes and behaviors; unfortunately it did not (King, 1982).
Health education is no longer just physical education. During previous times of war, so called health education programs had been initiated in order to improve upon the health quality of military recruits. This mentality wrongfully perpetuated a health for national defense ideology, a philosophy contrary to both ethics and human development. We also no longer conduct epidemiological experiments such as the Tuskegee Syphilis study.
So what, really, is this field called health education? Larry Green best describes the most important objective of health education as helping people behave in as healthy a manner as possible (Green, 1976).
On a practical basis, health education has become a set of strategies used to influence individuals to organize their lives towards health-enhancing directions. The strategies are used along a continuum of health from perfect health to death.
Traditionally, health education strategies have included: oral teaching, information through books, pamphlets and advertisements in the media; or regular education in schools and work-places (Nordenfelt, 1998) In order to accomplish this objective, I believe that health education, by definition, is a species of health promotion.
Health promotion is my greatest area of concern. Health promotion occurs at both the individual and public health levels. The Institute of Medicine defines the mission of public health as fulfilling society’s interest in assuring conditions in which people can be healthy (IOM, 1988). Therefore, this is also a process that includes policy and law. John Knowles stated, ‘over 99 percent of us are born healthy and are made sick as a result of personal behavior and environmental conditions.
The solution to the problem of ill health in modern American society involves individual responsibility, in the first instance, and social responsibility through public legislation and private voluntary efforts, in the second instance.’ The Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion defines health promotion as ‘the process of enabling people to increase control over, and to improve their health…health is therefore seen a resource for everyday life, not the objective of living. Health is a positive concept emphasizing social and personal resources as well as physical capabilities.’ Therefore health promotion is not just the responsibility of the health sector, but goes beyond lifestyles to well-being (Breslow 1990, p. 11).
Thus, Health promotion functions as a subset of health education and utilizes many unique elements. Health education is also prevention. Primary prevention attempts to prevent a negative health consequence before it occurs. Secondary and tertiary prevention involves attempting to reduce the effect of negative outcomes by changing behavior after a disease process has already begun.
Health education is both art and science. It is the art of applying appropriate learning theory to fit individual learning styles. It must now focus upon the actions and practices of people using the empirically substantiated behavioral principles of behavioral psychology.
Communication is another artistic tool used to promote health education by utilizing theories such as social marketing and diffusion of innovation. And the new fascinating tools of instructional technology should become a part of this social marketing plan. Philosophy of Education Discussion within the health education profession has centered on at least six suggested models that all involve behavior change.
Since I will use whatever approach works with a given population, I actually believe in an eclectic approach when defining my philosophy of education. However, I feel that three of these models represent the most appropriate applications, in most situations.
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