The World Health Organization is sharing important information on how to protect others from COVID-19
26.03.2020

How adult education can promote better public health

In such unprecedented times as now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the world calls for new approaches to health and modern medicine. While non-formal adult learning is not necessarily about producing a vaccine, it does provide an opportunity to create better health practices year-round. Not to mention how adults with a good understanding of their health and their health choices are more likely to follow medical advice closely: something exceptionally important right now to protect us, our families, and our communities.

Media literacy is linked to compliance with health safety rules

Non-compliance – i.e. failure to act in accordance with rules imposed by governments – is one of the costliest human impacts on medical systems in Europe right now. In periods where the health of the community is more important than ever, it’s vital that we, as a society, think about the biggest factors motivating non-compliance: miseducation and mistrust. Targeted adult education through health education and health literacy measures could be our strongest weapon for defeating this. Helping individuals to really understand the importance of complying to medical policy, rules, requirements etc. not only decreases the likelihood of a collapse of the health systems but also is less costly than the implementation of state control and “battlefield medicine” to reduce this occurrence.

Health education is also valuable for developing trust between the general public and medical practitioners: reducing the temptation to ignore advice, and helping to improve morale and the sense of health security throughout the broader community. Especially during this current pandemic, we are finding that many individuals move to areas where they feel to have had the best health provision: feeling that you trust your health sector could hugely discourage border hopping in search of the most supportive environment.

Health education empowers adults to take informed health choices

Adequate health education should not only provide information and encouragement for people taking medications or with specific health problems, but it should also look at daily measures and changes to prevent the spread of infectious disease (such as hygiene measures), and how to reduce the occurrence of preventable diseases, such as providing information on reducing unhealthy habits with strong connections to cancerous growths, heart disease, obesity and other modern health ‘epidemics’.

Providing comprehensive health education to adults helps them to feel empowered to make good choices for their health, not to mention the health of their families. It is not only valuable as a means for curbing the transmission of preventable disease, but also improving individuals sense of self-dependence and confidence. In situations such as our current pandemic, it is vital that individuals feel able to trust that they are making good choices and doing what they can to protect themselves and their communities: appropriate educational tools and resources are paramount to achieving this.

A large number of organisations and media have created health education campaigns for the public during the pandemic, notably the World Health Organization. Their information campaign can be found on https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public.

This article was published as part of a series on the impact of COVID-19 on adult education, and how adult education could help to mitigate the consequences of this global health, economic and social crisis.

Text: Agatha Devlin, EAEAPhotos: WHO

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