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Population Health for Nurses

19.1 Principles of Planning in Health Education Practice

Population Health for Nurses19.1 Principles of Planning in Health Education Practice

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this section, you should be able to:

  • 19.1.1 Identify the importance of planning in health education.
  • 19.1.2 Discuss the principles of planning in health education practice.
  • 19.1.3 Describe the significance of conducting a needs assessment to the planning process.

Community health education is the process of providing information regarding optimal health and wellness at the community level (American Public Health Association [APHA], 2023). This process involves surveying a community to determine health issues and trends in order to find solutions. Community health educators may work with local schools, government agencies, health departments, and other community agencies to identify education needs. Health education programs inform individuals, families, groups, and communities on topics such as substance misuse, chronic disease prevention and treatment, nutrition, exercise, mental health, and maternal/fetal health. Community education provides accurate information to community members to equip them to make healthy lifestyle choices. Education also improves health literacy, making it easier for clients to navigate the health care system. While education may not be the only factor influencing knowledge, attitude, and behavior, it is instrumental in assisting the learner in making changes toward a healthier lifestyle. Health education may involve disseminating foundational information and/or helping clients implement it in specific circumstances. Behavior change is a multifactorial process for clients that begins with a desire or reason to change and education on what to change and how to change. This allows clients to develop and take actionable steps to meet their needs.

Health education programs may look different depending on the community as they should be adapted to meet the needs of each community’s learners. The overall goals of these education programs should be to protect and promote clients’ health at the individual, community, and population levels. Some examples of health education programs include:

  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) education

Importance of Community Health Education

Educational attainment can lead to better jobs, higher incomes, stress reduction, and improved social and psychological skills (Virginia Commonwealth University, 2022). The relationship between education and health is a symbiotic one; education has been shown to improve overall health, and poor health has been shown to have a negative impact on educational attainment. Figure 19.2 demonstrates the links between education, health, and contextual factors for overall well-being. Education increases awareness of health issues, provides methods to prevent health complications by identifying health concerns early, and enables clients to seek treatment as needed. Prevention of disease and disability leads to healthier lifestyles and reduces health care costs.

Community health education places power in the hands of the client to make informed decisions regarding their health and well-being, leading to longer, healthier lives. In the long run, educational interventions should improve health outcomes and minimize long-term disability. Education improves client autonomy by providing skills and knowledge clients can use to make better-informed health and lifestyle decisions. It allows clients to assume personal responsibility for their health. For example, metabolic screenings can help clients identify abnormal values in their lipids early. This early identification, coupled with lifestyle and dietary education in the community, can give these clients the necessary tools to enhance their diet and activity level to improve health outcomes and minimize long-term complications.

A figure illustrates how the contextual factors of social policies and individual and family characteristics affect education and health. Factors affecting education are attendance, concentration, and learning disabilities. Factors affecting health are income and resources, healthy behavior, social benefits, psychological benefits, and healthy neighborhoods. Poor health can put education at risk, and education creates more opportunities for good health.
Figure 19.2 There is a direct link between education and health outcomes. Contextual factors must also be considered in both education and health. (See Virginia Commonwealth University, 2022; attribution: Copyright Rice University, OpenStax, under CC BY 4.0 license)

Theory in Action

Why Education Matters to Health

This Robert Wood Johnson Foundation video discusses the importance of education to health care outcomes.

Watch the video, and then respond to the following questions.

  1. How does socioeconomic status impact education levels and access to education?
  2. Discuss the multiple factors involved in children feeling safe. How do these factors influence the ability to learn?

Community health nurses play a foundational role as educators. The 10 Essential Public Health Services and Healthy People 2030 objectives clarify the community nurse’s role as an educator. An essential role of public health nurses is to “communicate effectively to inform and educate people about health, factors that influence it, and how to improve it” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2023a, para 3). Therefore, the community health nurse provides education with every intervention and across all levels of prevention. For example, education at the primary level of prevention includes health promotion, such as vaccination, exercise, and diet. Education at the secondary level of prevention includes information on health screening results, early diagnosis, and early treatment of disease. Education at the tertiary level of prevention provides ways to prevent further disability and improve lifestyle following diagnosis of a disease or disability. Nurses educate clients about specific disease states and problems and provide information about available health care services. Community health nurses also teach about behaviors to promote overall wellness and prevent illness.

Due to the importance of health education, the planning and implementation of education should not be done haphazardly. The process requires significant forethought. The planning process both identifies and prioritizes health problems. During educational planning, nurses identify available resources and then allocate them efficiently. Ultimately, detailed planning can help health care providers develop the most successful methods to educate community members and prevent duplication of activities already being used.

Principles of Planning

Planning a community health education program requires significant preparation. First and foremost, it is crucial to understand the community’s health care and educational needs. This can be achieved through a community health needs assessment (CHNA), which identifies a community’s strengths, resources, and current needs. CHNAs establish a foundation for planning and are discussed in detail in Assessment, Analysis, and Diagnosis. Additionally, nurses must consider the potential learners’ interests and motivations. Programs that do not appeal to these interests will have limited client participation. For example, if the community health nurse identifies increasing rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and wishes to initiate a community health education plan to reduce these rates but the community members do not believe this is a pressing concern, the nurse will not receive support and the initiative will likely be unsuccessful. The initiative may fail if community members do not participate in the health education program or funders and government officials do not support the plan.

Additionally, creating health education activities with the people involved in their implementation will likely increase participation and acceptance. For example, if those teaching the content are involved in planning, the intervention will likely be more successful. Examples of health education activities may include classes, courses, workshops, seminars, conversations, media advertisements, and/or webinars. These activities may use multiple forms of information dissemination, such as websites, videos, books, pictures, and/or software programs (Rural Health Information Hub, 2023). While creating health education activities, nurses should consider available community resources. Examples of resources are time, personnel, training, and financial organization. The planned educational activity should be achievable using these resources.

The nurse and health care team must remember to be flexible. While they should complete essential planning before program implementation, modifying plans along the way may be necessary to better serve the community. These alterations could be due to a change in resources or a change in problems if a new, more urgent problem develops. Health care providers must be trained and supported to effectively deliver education programs and maintain program implementation consistency. A successful health education program should be holistic, intersectional, participative, and equitable (World Health Organization [WHO], 2023). Health education programs can be guided by theoretical frameworks or models. Theoretical frameworks and models that can be used in program planning are discussed in Planning Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Interventions.

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