THE ROLES OF HEALTH EDUCATION IN PROMOTING HEALTH IN NIGERIA
Health is the level of functional or metabolic efficiency of a living organism. In humans, it is the general condition of a person’s mind and body, usually meaning to be free from illness, injury or pain (as in “good health” or “healthy”). The World Health Organization (WHO) defined health in its broader sense in 1946 as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
Health education is the profession of educating people about health. Areas within this profession encompass environmental health, physical health, social health, emotional health, intellectual health, and spiritual health. It 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. However, as there are multiple definitions of health, there are also multiple definitions of health education. The Joint Committee on Health Education and Promotion Terminology of 2001 defined Health Education as “any combination of planned learning experiences based on sound theories that provide individuals, groups, and communities the opportunity to acquire information and the skills needed to make quality health decisions.” The World Health Organization defined Health Education as “compris[ing] [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.
HEALTH EDUCATION IN NIGERIA
Health as well as health education in Nigeria is a concurrent responsibility of the three tiers of government in the country. Private providers of health care have a visible role to play in health care delivery. The federal government’s role is mostly limited to coordinating the affairs of the university teaching hospitals, Federal Medical Centres (tertiary health care) while the state government manages the various general hospitals (secondary health care) and the local government focus on dispensaries (primary health care), which are regulated by the federal government through the NPHCDA.
The total expenditure on health care as % of GDP is 4.6, while the percentage of federal government expenditure on health care is about 1.5%. A long run indicator of the ability of the country to provide food sustenance and avoid malnutrition is the rate of growth of per capita food production; from 1970–1990, the rate for Nigeria was 0.25%. Though small, the positive rate of per capita may be due to Nigeria’s importation of food products.
Historically, health insurance in Nigeria can be applied to a few instances: free health care provided and financed for all citizens, health care provided by government through a special health insurance scheme for government employees and private firms entering contracts with private health care providers. However, there are few people who fall within the three instances.
In May 1999, the government created the National Health Insurance Scheme, the scheme encompasses government employees, the organized private sector and the informal sector. Legislative wise, the scheme also covers children under five, permanently disabled persons and prison inmates. In 2004, the administration of Obasanjo further gave more legislative powers to the scheme with positive amendments to the original 1999 legislative act.
ROLES OF HEALTH EDUCATION IN PROMOTING HEALTH IN NIGERIA
Roles of health education has been described as “the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through the organized efforts and informed choices of society, organizations, public and private, communities and individuals.” It is concerned with threats to the overall health of a community based on population health analysis. The population in question can be as small as a handful of people or as large as all the inhabitants of several continents (for instance, in the case of a pandemic). Public health has many sub-fields, but typically includes the interdisciplinary categories of epidemiology, biostatistics and health services. Environmental health, community health, behavioral health, and occupational health are also important areas of public health.
The focus of health education is to prevent and manage diseases, injuries and other health conditions through surveillance of cases and the promotion of healthy behavior, communities, and (in aspects relevant to human health) environments. Its aim is to prevent health problems from happening or re-occurring by implementing educational programs, developing policies, administering services and conducting research. In many cases, treating a disease or controlling a pathogen can be vital to preventing it in others, such as during an outbreak. Vaccination programs and distribution of condoms to prevent the spread of communicable diseases are examples of common preventive public health measures, as are educational campaigns to promote vaccination and the use of condoms (including overcoming resistance to such).
Health education also takes various actions to limit the health disparities between different areas of the country and, in some cases, the continent or world. One issue is the access of individuals and communities to health care in terms of financial, geographical or socio-cultural constraints to accessing and using services. Applications of the public health system include the areas of maternal and child health, health services administration, emergency response, and prevention and control of infectious and chronic diseases.
The great positive impact of public health programs is widely acknowledged. Due in part to the policies and actions developed through public health, the 20th century registered a decrease in the mortality rates for infants and children and a continual increase in life expectancy in most parts of the world. For example, it is estimated that life expectancy has increased for Americans by thirty years since 1900, and worldwide by six years since 1990.
The roles of health education in promoting health in Nigeria cannot be over emphasized. It has gone a long way to revert the health sector and the delivery system in terms of saving lives and the betterment of the populace.
As already stated, traditional medical practices are very much a part of the health care delivery system in Nigeria today as they were during and before the struggle for independence. Health care during the period of independence was oriented primarily to curative rather than preventive care. For example, as a result of the poor attempt to establish preventive programs, measles remained the greatest killer of children. By this time, the WHO had proven beyond reasonable doubt that proper execution of preventive programs can eradicate deadly diseases, and indeed, small pox was almost non-existent in Nigeria at this time.
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