Educating the people in the community about environmental health is an important responsibility for the EHP.

Education sessions should be frequently and routinely held in the community. These might be held in the school, during community meetings or at individual houses.

Education activities should be planned well in advance and always written on the weekly and monthly planners.

How to undertake community environmental health education is described in the following sections.

9.1 Why community education is important

Often, people do not understand the ways in which environmental conditions affect their health and therefore, don't know why they should have good environmental health practices. If this happens the work of the EHP may not be effective.

The best person to help people to understand about the importance of environmental health is the EHP.

Environmental health work will receive a much better response from the community if the people understand why the work is being done and how it is likely to improve their health. For example, by explaining that dog dipping is being done because it will result in less scabies and skin infections.
It is very important to teach people about the germ theory, parasites and the way that diseases spread, so that they understand why they should practise good environmental health.

It is also important to teach people how to practise good environmental health so that they know what to do to keep themselves, their homes and their community healthy.

9.2 How to teach about good environmental health

People can learn from:
  • verbal (spoken) explanations
  • demonstrations (being shown)
  • observing (looking at) what others do
  • getting information from books, posters, videos, pamphlets and other printed materials
  • working things out for themselves
People do not learn well when:
  • they do not have the desire to learn
  • they are not physically fit, such as when they are sick or tired
  • they are emotionally upset, such as when they are angry or frustrated
  • when the teacher does not explain things clearly
People do learn best when:
  • they want to learn
  • things are explained clearly in words they understand
  • they feel happy when they are being taught
  • they are rewarded when they show that they have learnt what they have been taught. People are usually rewarded when they are praised for their efforts
  • things are explained or shown to them a number of times and in a number of different ways
  • they have the opportunity for actual hands-on practice, for example, dog treatments and plumbing repairs
  • they are not distracted by other things going on around them.
  • pictures and diagrams are used to explain difficult ideas
  • they can use what they have been taught in their communities and homes.
  • they can understand the benefits their knowledge will have for them and their community
EHPs need to understand that people often do not put into practice what they have been taught. This may be because they have not listened properly to the teacher, they have forgotten what has been said or they have not understood.

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Even after people know what should be done and why, they often take quite a long time to change their poor environmental health behaviour. This may be because they:
  • may not understand that practising good environmental health is important for them
  • do not want to appear different to other people
  • think it is too much trouble
  • do not have the money to buy the necessary equipment
  • do not have the confidence that they can change their behaviour. This often happens when people do not think much of themselves
  • think other things are more important than health
EHPs must have patience when they are teaching.

Preparing to teach about environmental health

Before an EHP teaches anything about environmental health to people in the community it is important that the following points are considered.
  • It is important that the EHP fully understands what he/she is teaching.
  • If an EHP does not fully understand the facts, it is highly unlikely that the learner/s will be able to understand either.
  • An EHP can find out what needs to be taught by talking to the community to find out about their special needs, or by reading books, pamphlets and course notes on the topic and asking Environmental Health supervisors, Program teaching staff or an EHO.
  • Regardless of where the lesson is being given, it will need to be planned to make sure that everything that needs to be done will be done.
A lesson plan should:
  1. Have clear objectives.
    The EHP should work out what it is that needs to be taught, to whom and by what date.
    Example of an objective:
    At the end of the lesson, the Year 7 class will understand the causes, effects on health and prevention of scabies.
  2. An outline of the steps to be taken to meet the objectives.
    Example:
      • Tell the class what scabies are, where they live, how they breed and how they affect people’s health.
        Teaching aids: Poster, audio-visual presentation
      • Tell the class how to get rid of scabies. This would include telling them about the special medicated skin wash which kills scabies, washing clothes, washing and airing bedding.
        Teaching aid: Poster, sample of scabies treatment
        Practical demonstration: Washing and airing clothes and bedding
      • Get the group to discuss how they can apply what they have been taught. Encourage them to talk about any difficulties they may have and work with them to find solutions.

9.3 Teaching aids

Teaching aids are things which help the teacher explain what needs to be taught.

The best teaching aids for the EHP to use are pictures which can help him/her explain what needs to be taught. There are different kinds of teaching aid which have pictures.
Examples are flip charts, client one-to-one cards, teaching posters, videos and DVD’s, PowerPoint presentations, slides, overhead transparencies and stickers.

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Flip charts

These consist of a number of cards with pictures on them bound together in a single file. Each chart is designed to help communicate one or two facts. All the charts together should provide enough information to allow the learner to understand the basic facts about a particular topic, for example, how to get rid of scabies.

Flip charts can be used for teaching from one to about ten people and are particularly helpful when teaching people who cannot read. The message is explained verbally as people look at the picture.
Fig.  7.8: EHP using a flip chart to teach children.
Fig. 7.8: EHP using a flip chart to teach children.

Client one-to-one education cards

These are single cards which are designed to provide the basic facts about a particular topic, such as how flies cause disease. Each card has a number of illustrations which together provide the information which needs to be taught.
These cards are used for teaching only one or two people and are designed to teach people who cannot read.

Posters

These are large pieces of paper which can be pinned up on a wall and which contain pictures and words about a particular topic, such as trachoma. The poster usually does not have many words and it should be possible to understand the message from the pictures.

All the information on a poster should be able to be seen from some distance away and it should be attractive enough to catch people's attention long enough for them to take in the message.

There are teaching posters and reinforcement of message posters.

Teaching posters are designed to help teachers explain what they want people to understand and learn.

Reinforcement posters are specially designed to remind people of certain important health messages which have already been explained to them.

After people have been taught the health messages in a poster, copies should be pinned up in places where they are likely to see them over and over again. For example in the clinic, community office, community hall, school and shop.

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Videos and DVD’s

Videos and DVDs are used to teach people new information or to remind them about health information that has already been explained to them.

Videos and DVDs are especially useful when the teacher is trying to encourage a group to talk about the subject which is being taught. For example, the teacher can ask the people in a group what they think about something which has happened in the video or DVD, such as an EHP doing checklisting. He/she can then ask them what they think the EHP is doing and why. The teacher can then go on to discuss with the group their willingness to have an EHP checklist their home.
Health messages can also go out to a lot of people when videos are shown on local community television.
Fig.  7.9: Family watching environmental health video/DVD.
Fig. 7.9: Family watching environmental health video/DVD.

Normally, people do not learn facts from just being shown a video or DVD. They need to have things explained by the EHP as well. They also need to talk about and practise what they are taught.

PowerPoint presentations, slides and overhead transparencies

If there is a projector for PowerPoint, slides or transparencies and electric power in the community, these media devices can be used to help get health messages across to large groups of people.
These are expensive education aids and usually can only be borrowed from an education resource centre.

Stickers

Stickers are used to remind people about important health messages. They are often displayed in places where EHPs want people to put into practice something which they have been taught. For example, a sticker reminding people to put rubbish in a bin can be placed on a rubbish bin near where people drop a lot of litter.
Fig.  7.10: Environmental health stickers remind people what to do.
Fig. 7.10: Environmental health stickers remind people what to do.

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9.4 Demonstrations and practice

In addition to using teaching aids, a very good way of teaching people good environmental health practices, such as dog dipping, is by showing them the right way to do things. This kind of teaching is called demonstrating.

This method is particularly effective when the teacher also gives the learner the opportunity to practice what has been demonstrated. People learn better when they do the job themselves. For example, after showing how to dip a dog, encourage the learner to actually dip the dog him or herself.
Fig.  7.11: Demonstrating environmental health maintenance.
Fig. 7.11: Demonstrating environmental health maintenance.

It is often a good idea to show people that good environmental health practice improves health. For example, an EHP and the Community Nurse may have run a program to get rid of scabies in the community. This program may have included screening for scabies, the treatment of affected people, dog dipping and education about the causes, health affects and prevention of scabies.

To be able to show that this program has worked, the EHP could ask the local Community Nurse to work out from the clinic records how many people came in for scabies treatment, including infected sores:
  • during the month before the program started
  • during the month immediately following the finish of the program
If the program has been done well, there should be a drop in the number of people going to the clinic for treatment connected with scabies. If this has happened, it is important to tell the community about it.

9.5 Where teaching can be done

EHPs can teach community members in different places. Here is a list of some of them:

Community meetings

Whenever the EHP thinks that community members need to know about an environmental health problem in the community, he/she should tell them about it at a community meeting. The EHP should tell them about the causes of the problem and what can be done to fix it. When the people know these things they will be in a good position to make decisions which will improve the situation.

People's houses

There are many times when an EHP will need to explain things to individual family members. Some teaching needs to be done with great care so as not to shame people. If there is any chance of this happening, it is best to visit their homes and talk to them on their own.

While working in communal areas

EHPs can often find opportunities to talk to people about environmental health matters when they are just having friendly chats with them outside the store, their homes, around camp fires at night or in the streets.

These times are good for telling them about the work EHPs do and why they are doing it. This helps them understand better the need for a clean healthy community.
Whenever possible the EHP should correct children who are seen to be behaving in a way which is likely to cause the spread of disease-causing germs and parasites. For example, they should be corrected when they litter, do not wash their hands after going to the toilet, play near leaking sewage pipes, or break water equipment. The more this is done in a friendly way, the better children will learn.

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The school

EHPs can make arrangements with the school to teach environmental health topics to children.

It must be remembered that teachers work out their teaching programs well ahead of time, so it is wise to make these arrangements early in the school year. At the same time, talk to the class teacher about what needs to be taught and make sure that it fits in with his/her teaching program.

EHPs can offer to give talks in the classroom or to teach by taking students into the community and showing them how to recognise environmental health problems and the steps they can take to get them fixed.