Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Network in Promoting Health Literacy: A Case Study of a School under the Local Administration in Thailand

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Network in Promoting Health Literacy: A Case Study of a School under the Local Administration in Thailand

Article excerpt

Abstract

This research aims to lay a foundation in health literacy for well-informed and inquiring citizens through school and community networks. A municipal school in Phon district, Khon Kaen province in Thailand was recruited as a case study. The research was a participatory action research. Participants were students, school teachers, administrator, the Mayor of the city, district public health officers, police officers, and parents. Two networks were established; a strategic network and a procedure network. The strategic network was centered on the outside organizations, namely the municipality office, district public health office, police station, community organizations, and parents. The procedure network was the collaborative work between higher education institute and school. The two networks also worked collaboratively in order to enhance the promotion of health literacy in the school. The research instruments included field notes, teachers' portfolio and lesson plans, interviewing data, and a record of After Action Reflection. The two-year programme revealed that: 1) teachers showed strong commitment to the continuous promotion of health literacy in school; 2) participating organizations turned out to be a permanent network with school, and; 3) the concept of health literacy extended throughout the community, from students to their families. The parents and community members showed an awareness and interest in promoting health literacy practices.

Keywords: health literacy, network, school

1. Introduction

1.1 Health Literacy Development

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health literacy (HL) as representing the cognitive and social skills which determine the motivation and individuals to access to understand meaning of good health and capable to use it effectively (Nutbeam, 1998). HL may benefit both personally and socially and has profound implications for education and communication methods. Raízan (2001), cited in Pearson and Saunder (2009) pointed out that various definitions have been put forward that acknowledge the ability to access, interpret and make decision about information from many sources that promote good health. Nutbeam (2000) stated that HL methods of education provide challenges to communicate in ways that invite interaction, participation, and critical analysis. This approach seems to be in line with critical thinking education. The outcomes of HL could be considered at three levels. Firstly, functional HL aims to improve knowledge of health risks. Functional literacy is for developing effective skills in reading and writing to be able to function effectively in everyday situations, which is compatible with the narrow definition of HL. Secondly, interactive HL focuses on the development of personal skills in a supportive environment. The approach aims to improve personal capacity to act independently based on knowledge received. Communicative or interactive literacy covers more advanced cognitive and literacy skills, which integrate with social skills. These skills can be used to actively participate in everyday activities as well as to apply new information to changing circumstances. Finally, critical HL reflects the cognitive and skills development outcomes. This level would be directed towards improving individual and community capacity in social and economic determinants of health. Critical literacy covers more advanced cognitive skills when this skill integrates with social skills. It can be applied to critically analyze information and to use this information to greater control over life situations. All these various levels of literacy would lead to greater autonomy and personal empowerment (Nutbeam, 2000).

"Education for health directed towards interactive and critical HL is not new, and has formed part of social mobilization programs for many years" (Nutbeam, 2000, p. 265).

UNESCO has been promoting functional literacy for more than four decades. …

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