Behavioral Change in Health Education

ANY TYPE of education that requires behavioral change is extremely slow and difficult. In fact, in certain circumstances it might be labeled impossible. However, Adventists can take courage from the following. . .

-an associate director in the General Conference Department of Health at the time this article was written

ANY TYPE of education that requires behavioral change is extremely slow and difficult. In fact, in certain circumstances it might be labeled impossible. However, Adventists can take courage from the following.

In the book, Christian Service, page 137, we are told, "I am instructed to say to health reform educators, Go forward. The world needs every jot of the influence you can exert to press back the tide of moral woe. Let those who teach the third angel's message stand true to their colors." "Go forward," we are instructed, and go forward we must.

Who Needs This Education?

Health education is a facet of life that is needed by every individual within the church, and without the church. This is emphasized to a greater degree by Ellen White again in Counsels on Health, page 446: "The light God has given on health reform is for our salvation and the salvation of the world. . . . These grand truths must be given to the world. We must reach the people where they are, and by example and precept lead them to see the beauties of the better way. The world is in sad need of instruction along these lines. The time has come when each soul must be stanch and true to every ray of light God has given, and begin in earnest to give this gospel of health to the people. We shall have strength and power to do this, if we practice these truths in our own lives." (Italics supplied.)

Here is the complete message. It is for us---we need it and it is for the world. Recently, Dr. Nevin Scrimshaw, a world figure in the field of nutrition, in speaking to a meeting of dietitians in Canada on the topic "The World Food Needs" stated, "Seventh-day Adventists know all about the meatless diet. They know what they are doing and we need to go to them for their help." Afterward, speaking alone to the dietitian from North York Branson Hospital, he added, "Please take a message to your church for me. Tell them to get the information you have in print right away, as we need your help."

Dr. Jean Mayer, professor of nutrition at Harvard, made this statement in the February, 1973, Family Health magazine: "Few branches of Protestantism have had as noble a record of human achievements as the Seventh-day Adventists. Anyone who has worked in underdeveloped countries, as I have, is certain to have acquired an unbounded admiration for the integrated form of assistance the Adventists offer. They bring not only technical help with a church, a school, a hospital, and an agricultural extension service but a renewed feeling of unity in the life of people whose traditional ways have been shattered by the inroads of Western civilization."

Abraham Lincoln described our Government as being of, by, and for the people. These same words can be applied to Adventist health education. Health of the people is our goal. Provision of certain health services for the people is important, and participation by the people is the real key to a healthy activity.

Our first goal, then, is to motivate the Seventh-day Adventist Church member to "the beauties of the better way" and provide for him the instruments and know-how to "begin in earnest to give this gospel of health to the people."

There are three main qualities of a health teacher. First, he must have the knowledge. Second, he must believe it is true. Third, it must be so significant to him that it becomes a part of his life. He must live it.

How to Give It

The first principle of all health education is "reach the people where they are." And then, "by example and precept lead them." How simple! Jack E. Murphy, a writer on salesmanship, states:

"Selling must be precise; a salesman must be as patient as Job; as understanding and sympathetic as a country preacher; as dignified as the local under taker; as humorous as a comedian; as purposeful as policemen and as courageous as a test pilot." These qualities are really necessary.

Ellen White outlines other qualities that are even more important. "Of all the people in the world, reformers should be the most unselfish, the most kind, the most courteous." --Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 460. We cannot do this alone, but again, referring back to the Counsels on Health statement used earlier in this article, we are promised help: "We shall have strength and power to do this, if we practice these truths in our own lives." Is that too big an "if"?

Reaching the people where they are is the first rule to keep in mind. This would involve the home, the school, the church, and the community. When should this emphasis of "the better way" begin? In the International Journal of Health Education, July-September, 1965, Paul van de Calseyde, regional director for WHO, states, "Health education should begin at the cradle and is a family responsibility." Ellen White adds: "The first three years is the time in which to bend the tiny twig." --Child Guidance, p. 194. Again, in Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, pages 294, 295, she states, "Youth is the sowing time that determines the harvest of this life and the life beyond the grave. The habits formed in childhood and youth, the tastes acquired, the self-control gained, are almost certain to determine the future of the man or woman."

Steps in Implementation

From this we would conclude that the following steps should be adopted:

1. The home must be reached through the church. Classes for parents must be organized. This necessitates the preparation of a syllabus with instruction in physiology, hygiene, nutrition, and other areas of physical fitness.

2. The school is another strategic avenue that must be included in our planning. A health council made up of interested teachers and students could be the motivating factor. Workshops for teachers should be held periodically. An integrated program in health education can permeate the entire school year and if planned properly can be attractive and effective. The monthly magazine School Health can continually feed new refreshing ideas and suggestions to the classroom through the teacher.

3. The Better Living Breakthrough program and other forms of health emphasis that include education for church members as well as training programs for the purpose of community outreach need to be planned by the church health secretary and his/her committee. The pastor and church board must support and promote these programs.

4. The community is, of course, the target for much of these health-oriented endeavors of the church. "By example and precept," Ellen White suggests, and by such outreach programs as public cooking schools and weight-management classes, we are to share "the beau ties of the better way" with our neighbors, relatives, and friends.

Health education has as its aim the modification and improvement of health behavior. These programs must not be conducted as a one-program affair, but must be part of a continuing educational process. There must be follow-up plans carried out. For instance, in the Wa-Rite Program, after the twelve-week prescribed classes of one a week, we suggest the Sta-Rite Program, which continues once a month until the Wa-Rite Program begins again. The Wa-Rite Program is also a natural method of following up a Five-Day Plan, and cooking schools can be used to carry on interest from the Wa-Rite Program.

An Integral Part of the Gospel

Health is, of course, one of the primary goals of health education. A sound health-education program identifies health needs and interests of individuals and meets these by providing scientific information regarding personal and community health, motivating whole some attitudes toward health and healthful living, and inspiring effective health habits and practices.

In order for leadership to provide proper impetus and guidance to an effective, efficient health-emphasis program in the home, school, church, and community, it is imperative that a person with proper background and interest be assigned this work at the local conference level.

Every institution carrying the label "Seventh-day Adventist," whether it be a college, hospital, nursing home, restaurant, Better Living center, church, publishing house, book center, or food factory, should be looked to by the public as an educational center. Have we really made use of these avenues in reaching the public with our health message? The potential is all around us. Ellen White says, "The time has come when each soul . . . [must] begin in earnest to give this gospel of health to the people." --Counsels on Health, p. 446. Let us lay plans for the future that will be a strong foundation on which we can build and reach those people both within and with out our church. Truly, then, the health message will be, as it was intended by God to be, an integral part of the three angels' messages and the healing of the whole man.

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-an associate director in the General Conference Department of Health at the time this article was written

December 1975

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