Public Health/Health Education Philosophy
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
In May, I graduate with my MPH (Master of Public Health) degree. Next month, I sit for the CHES (Certified Health Education Specialist) exam. As part of my remaining tasks for my degree, I am charged with creating my Public Health/Health Education Philosophy. It isn't that long (only 3 pages) but requires much reflection. Ultimately, what I do believe health is and what are the components of health that lead to a state of health? How is public health, health education, and health promotion philosophy used to change behavior?
Public Health/Health Education borrows from many disciplines (psychology, sociology, cultural anthropology, education etc.). How do I believe people change their health habits for good? What role does motivation play?
It's been said that it depends on what setting the health education is being delivered (medical, worksite, population, community etc.) that determines the underlying philosophy behind the delivery. Part of the problem is that some have old-school thinking about what education implies. It is not merely knowledge-based. It can't be. Increasing knowledge is essential but it is not enough to change and sustain changed behavior. The health education specialist must strive to change beliefs, attitudes, and, if possible, values.
This is much easier said than done for human behavior is complex. That's why health education uses behavior change theories. What has worked before? What is likely to work in this situation? No need to reinvent the wheel.
So what does this all have to do with weight loss? Everything. I feel I have a good grasp on knowledge of reasons that lead to obesity (complex as they may be) but unless beliefs, attitudes, skills and values are changed then it will not lead to successful behavior change in the form of sustained weight loss. Further, if we lose the weight but do not gain our health, what benefit is that? We must start with the goal of health in mind.