I have recovered these themes and images from flip charts I made
during our workshops. Those days were like a honeymoon for health
education in South Africa - an inspiring marriage of hearts and
minds from all around the country that in the end did not work out.
At All Saints Hospital we joined up with Mount Ayliff Hospital
to begin the Health Education Project (1971-74). This lead to the
formation of the Transkei Health Education Association and Journal
(1975). Nationwide there was the South African National Council
for Health Education and its annual conferences (1977-84) under
the charismatic leadership of the late Dr Renate Westphal. What
was so special about the movement was the enthusiasm and thirst
for guidance from grassroots health workers.
People used to ask, sometimes critically, What is this Health Education?
Where is this Discipline? Where are the Textbooks? We wanted to
see cadres of health educationists whose training concentrated on
communication skills, but always backed by highly qualified specialists
in what today is called an integrated model. This was a worldwide
trend, but then, in South Africa, it was unpopular with the top
nursing professionals of the time.
Meanwhile, by listening to the problems and experiences of the
communities we worked among, we discovered the reality of problem-
and community-based learning long before those terms became fashionable.
Offering good health care depends on doing simple things well.
I hope this presentation highlights that simplicity and shows that
"health education" is not an add-on, but begins within
our professional attitudes.
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