Education, Literacy, or Promotion?

What is health education?

Some authors define the objectives of health education as:

  ◆ a way to establish an understanding of the factors, lifestyle and environment, which increase the risk of disease and decrease the health quality of people’s lives;

  ◆ an action to influence the way society values health, and decrease unhealthy behaviours;

  ◆ a way to empower people with skills that promote the adoption of health-favouring behaviours more easily, and challenge health-harming environments;

  ◆an action that creates opportunities for the government and authorities to promote health.

Health education is only concerned with empowerment and aims to help people learn about things that affect their health, as well as persuade them (within ethical limits) to adopt behaviours that will benefit their health and the health of their community.

What is Health Literacy?

Health Literacy can be described as the personal, cognitive and social skills that determine an individual’s ability to understand and use the information to promote and maintain good health. The academic literature identifies the following levels of health literacy:

  ◆ Functional health literacy: when the individual improves their knowledge of health, health risks and health services, and has the ability to comply with the recommended actions.

  ◆ Interactive health literacy: the individual capacity to act independently on health knowledge and advice received, and their increased motivation and self-confidence in the use of this information.

  ◆ Critical health literacy: the use of the developed skills orientated towards supporting effective social and political action and individual action.

What is Health Promotion?

In some literature, the terms health promotion and public health are used synonymously. But, health promotion is a vital part of public health, not the same as it. Public health has been defined as the “science and art of preventing disease, extending life, and promoting health through the organised efforts of society.” In this sense, public health is concerned with improving the health service and protecting the health of the citizens.

Health promotion requires knowledge and skills that most public health professionals do not have, and for this reason, should be practised by health promotion professionals. Health education is an invaluable element of health promotion, and the availability of social media and other internet tools has opened up new channels for health education. We can say that health education has the objective of increasing health literacy.

The World Health Organization defined health promotion as ‘the process of enabling people to increase control over, and to improve their health’. Some literature defines Health promotion as any activity which protects and/or improves people’s health. However, this does not include people who already have a disease or an injury. This means that it has a preventive objective.

Health education has been defined as a planned process designed to achieve personal and collective health. It is focused on improving understanding of the determinants of health and illness, as well as a way of helping people to develop the necessary skills to bring change. Education about health has the goal of providing people with knowledge about factors that affect their health and how these factors can be changed.

In the past, health promotion was sometimes called ‘health propaganda’, ‘health improvement’, ‘health development’ and ‘social marketing’.