Dr. Clara Onuigbo writes about the need for health education. She says we all regardless of age, social standing or level of education need health education. Sadly, a big gap exists in Nigeria as far as health information is concerned and this might be the reason we are having challenges with the populace as far as health is concerned.
Health Education is a profession of educating people about health. Areas within this profession encompass environmental health, physical health, social health, emotional health, intellectual health, and spiritual health, as well as sexual and reproductive health education.
Health Education can be defined as the principle by which individuals and groups of people learn to behave in a manner conducive to the promotion, maintenance or restoration of health. – Wikipedia
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health Education as comprising of consciously constructed opportunities for learning involving some form of communication designed to improve health, literacy, including improving knowledge and developing life skills which are conducive to individual and community health.
One thing is clear and consistent in these definitions. There must be a deliberate, intentional effort to impart knowledge and skill. It most be effectively communicated to the target audience.
A big gap exists in Nigeria as far as health information is concerned and this might be the reason we are having challenges with the populace as far as health is concerned.
Perhaps if we taught the teenagers about addiction and drug dependence before they are exposed to drugs, they will make better choices.
Perhaps if the child was given appropriate sexuality education and the right to privacy and dignity, the sexual predators and pedophiles will not take advantage of them.
Perhaps if we taught children early enough the signs of depression, so they can identify it and seek help we will have fewer teenage suicides.
Perhaps if we as a people were taught from childhood not to victimize or stigmatize people with medical challenges, all patients will have a better deal.
The secrecy and shame that comes with medical challenges will be removed.
The entire populace needs health education. Parents need to know the signs and symptoms of addiction and depression.
The communities need to be taught. We need to unlearn some of the wrong ideas handed over by tradition and beliefs.
Government needs a planned, well articulated compulsory health education program in primary and secondary education. It must be detailed, relevant and practical and not necessarily culminating in certification.
Religious organizations have a role to play…. health education can be included in the Christian Sunday School and the Koranic/ Arabic lesson for Muslims.
Where are the community health workers? Where are the sanitation inspectors? Where are the health educators? What happened to the health enlightenment jingles we heard on the radio and TV in earlier years?
The education system needs to come up with a robust health education curriculum at least at the UBE level. So that before the end of the first 12 or 6 years of basic education, the average Nigerian child is equipped with information that will enable him live a healthy life.
To achieve this, professional health educators have to be employed and engaged in our primary and post primary schools. Our government has numerous programs on health. But they have not recorded as much success because of improper information dissemination.
People need to be taught the benefits of immunization for instance.
People need to know why female genital mutilation is bad.
People need to be given a superior knowledge or argument to make then do away with harmful traditional practices like child marriage or female genital mutilation.
People need to be taught about safe and healthy maternal practices and proper infant and child care.
Proper sexuality and reproductive health information will save a lot of families from misery. People need to be taught about HIV/ AIDS and prevention.
People need to be taught the proper way to treat those with health challenges.
A more robust budget for health education should be encouraged at all levels of government.
Government should also partner with pharmaceutical companies and NGOs.
Proper informed lifestyle choices will not only prevent diseases but improve the quality of life.
The slogan “if you know better, you will do better” is so real as far as health education and informed choices are concerned.
Dr. Clara Onuigbo is a Medical Practitioner.