Individual approaches in social ecological health promotion programs involve focusing on individual based change for health promotion. It focuses on providing individuals with information that will help them in prevention mechanisms for diseases. It also involves instilling the belief that treatment interventions will improve the health of a sick individual (Schneider, 2011). This paper will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of using individual approaches in the larger context of social ecological health promotion programs.
There are a number of benefits associated with individual approaches in social ecological health promotion programs. To begin with, individual approaches promote the uptake of health services on offer in society. Individuals are encouraged to use services provided in the health care facilities. This includes services like voluntary testing for diabetes and HIV/AIDS.
Individuals are able to acquire information about health and diseases from individual based approaches of promoting health. They are able to acquire skills on how to deal with chronic illnesses. This information and skills improve the way of life for sick and healthy people in the society .Individuals get life enhancing skills through individual based programs. It is through such programs that individuals are exposed to healthy lifestyles that they can adopt for an improvement in the quality of life they lead in terms of good health.
Individuals are empowered to take control of their health status and other factors in their environment. Information disseminated through this approach offers guidelines. These guidelines help individuals manage factors that affect their health. In such a situation, individuals gain skills that enable them to control local situations to benefit their health.
Lastly, such an approach can reach a significant number of people in a community. This offers more penetration into the community. This can lead to a high number of people adopting healthy lifestyles in a society. Change in a significant number of individuals can translate to societies with good and healthy practices.
There are a number of weaknesses associated with individual approaches in social ecological health promotion programs Firstly, this model does not account for individual beliefs and attitudes that are influenced by the society. Individual decisions fall in a wider scope of societal decisions. As such, some decisions are not based on the information an individual possesses. Factors such as the perception and attitude carried by the surrounding population significantly influence individuals’ health related decisions. Habitual behaviors cannot be discarded simply after attaining information that discourage s such behavior. This approach does not consider such habitual behaviors that cannot be stopped by availability of information. There are practices that are hard to discard. This can include smoking or having multiple sexual partners.
Individual based approaches assume that provision of information will drive a change in behaviors and attitudes. This does not put into consideration emotional factors such as denial and fear. Such emotional factors have been known to prevent individuals from applying health related information to their way of life.
This approach does not give the individuals in communities a forum where they can voice their ideas as experts have the sole responsibility of making health related decisions. This lack of involvement can be a factor that discourages implementation of the information provided. As such, social acceptability is not put into consideration (Lloyd, 2004).
Lastly, there are social and economic factors that the approach does not factor in while assessing the acquisition of a health product or service. Public health agencies have limited capacity and autonomy to target established political and economic forces (Thomas & Matthew, 2005). The approach assumes that every person in society has an equal access to information concerning diseases and other health related issues. It also assumes that each individual have the required financial resources to attain the health related products or services.
Question 2: Involving the community in health interventions increases the effectiveness of such projects. This entails holding meetings with stakeholders in the community on a discussion forum. Most individuals presenting health interventions to communities do so from an expert point of view. Such an approach leaves no room for dialogue with the members of the community in question. In forums where the community is involved, presenters of such strategies allow for dialogue with the stakeholders. Involving the community has proven to make intervention strategies successful in the communities in question. How community involvement increases project efficiency and the barriers faced by involving the community in health improvement programs will be analyzed.
Community involvement increases the number of people that participate in the proposed health improvement strategy. Social sciences have pointed out that people tend to participate in new projects that they feel a sense of ownership. Such participation grooms a sense of project ownership within the individuals involved. A study was done on the stages of behavior change. It was concluded that variables like demographics affect systematic patterns in the decisional balance measures across groups. If the community involved was made aware they influence decisions made by people trying to change their behaviors for improved health, they would behave accordingly around such characters (James, Wayne, Joseph, Michael, Bess, William, Christine, Lisa, Colleen, Dena & Susan, 1994).
Acceptance of new ideas that are normally proposed in health improvement strategies is enhanced by community involvement. When the community is engaged in a forum that allows dialogue, new ideas are demystified by the experts. This makes the people more aware of what they are adopting and why. This increases the success rates of such programs.
Change in attitude over existing issues is observed where health improvement strategies involve the community before they are launched. Some attitudes are deep rooted in society. It is therefore, key to address the dynamics of such attitudes before proposing plans of action that abolish them. This is achieved by involving the community in dialogue before the launch of such plans of action.
Community involvement allows members of the community to raise their concerns and questions concerning the proposed projects (Meisenheimer, 1997). This gives them a chance to ask the experts involved questions involving the issues being addressed. This increases the chances of a proposed health improvement strategy being successful. Members of the public that would have rejected the proposed plan of action can address any concerns they may have.
Community involvement involves dealing with key stakeholders in the community. Such stakeholders can influence the rest of the society if they are convinced of the benefits of the proposed health strategies. This increases the chances of adoption of the proposed strategies. It also ensures that a significant portion of the community will be convinced of the health benefits associated with the implementation of the information they receive.
Community involvement is a more holistic approach compared to individual engagement of people. This ensures that information is spread to a large number of people. It also addresses challenges like societal attitudes that would not have been addressed in individual engagement. Community involvement can also be used to assess the reaction of a large number of people to health improvement strategies. Community involvement in health improvement strategies also ensures continuation in implementation of strategies once the experts are gone. Improvements in physical activity were mediated by increases in self-regulation and self-efficacy (Emily & Edward, 2013). This improvement was maintained for six months after proposed strategies were first implemented by a group of working mothers involved in the implementation of a health improvement strategy.
Community involvement faces a number of barriers. Firstly, the process of organizing for gatherings can be cumbersome. It takes a lot of financial and human resources to plan for such gatherings. Secondly, members of the community may not possess the knowledge required to debate over health issues. This can complicate the process of dialogue between the experts and members of society. Different cultures also demand different approaches to dealing with community stakeholders in different locations. Having a uniform way of addressing communities would have made the process simpler. However, this is impossible because of cultural diversity. Adequately training graduate students in psychosocial approaches to neighborhood and community-based approaches to HIV prevention and care involves a diverse array of interdisciplinary skills (Carl, Danielle, David and Sandro, 2013). This conclusion from a recent study shows that community involvement in health improvement strategies requires a wide range of skills in public relations.
Carl A. L., Danielle G., David V. and Sandro G. (2013) Neighborhoods and HIV: A Social Ecological Approach to Prevention and Care. Americaan Psychologist
Emily L. M., and Edward M. (2013) Impact of a brief intervention on physical activity and social cognitive determinants among working mothers: a randomized trial. Springer Science and Business Media New York
James O. P., Wayne F. V., Joseph S. R., Michael G. G., Bess H. M., William R., Christine F., Lisa L. H., Colleen A. R., Dena R., and Susan R. R. (1994) Stages of Change and Decisional Balance for 12 Problem Behaviors Health Psychology. Vol. 13, No. 1,39-46
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Meisenheimer, C. G. (1997). Improving quality: A guide to effective programs. Gaithersburg, Md: Aspen Publication.
Schneider, M.-J. (2011). Introduction to public health. Sudbury, Mass: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.
Thomas A. G., and Matthew J. M. (2005) Behavioral science at the crossroads in public health: Extending horizons, envisioning the future. Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health