The Community Health Education (CHE) offered by LCMS Mercy Medical Teams is just as important as the clinical work that we provide. Through education, many conditions and diseases can be prevented, decreasing the need for medical care and improving the health of our partners.
What is Community Health Education (CHE)
Community Health Education focuses on preventing disease and injury, improving health, and providing lasting results. CHE is individually tailored for each location to meet the unique challenges of that particular place. With the help of LCMS Health Ministry, church and community leaders identify the challenges in their area, and a plan is developed to address these needs. CHE is reproducible; after the team leaves, our church partners continue the programming, reaching far beyond our initial connections. Those taught become teachers. Because of this individualized approach, CHE looks different in every situation.
Because the MMT program works with our local Lutheran church partners, there is a permanent presence in the community after the team leaves, continuing to share the love of Christ and promote good health.
The LePSAS Approach
Mercy Medical Teams uses the LePSAS approach to CHE. This method of teaching focuses on the learner, rather than the teacher. Participants are involved in the learning process, taking ownership of the solutions that they create. The leader guides the discussion by involving participants in reaching their own conclusions and providing solutions that fit their community. LePSAS teaching is:
Le = Learner‑Centered. Programming begins with what participants perceive as problems in their community. We are all more likely to act upon our own ideas, rather than those given to us by others. Everyone is encouraged to participate and share their personal ideas.
P = Problem‑Posing. A problem is presented to the group, to initiate thinking and discussion. The problem is presented as a real-life situation, revealing a real need in the community. It is true to the culture, and poses a question, without giving the solution.
S = Self‑Discovery. Through dialog, learners discover answers to the problem. The leader builds on the knowledge already in the community. Each contribution is valued and respected, and the leader presents knowledge as a participant rather than an expert.
A = Action‑Oriented. The lesson is not complete until the learners have made a plan of action. The purpose of the session is not to transfer knowledge from the trainer to the participants, but to involve participants in creating solutions that they will own and implement.
S = Spirit‑Guided. The Holy Spirit produces the change of heart which results a permanent change in behavior. Each lesson ends with the Bible, relating the behaviors and solutions learned to the Word of God.
CHE in Action
CHE can be as simple as a health fair which offers resources on several topics during the course of an afternoon, or can be more involved, offering workshops and classes over the course of a weekend or several weeks. Separate programming can be provided for children while their parents are participating.
Although the needs of each community are unique, some of the most common things that we teach are prenatal care, dental hygiene, and prevention of specific diseases like malaria or diabetes. Any topic can be addressed using CHE, including community development, physical health, relationships, and Christian living. Once the community has the knowledge, they become the teachers, offering classes and support to others.
Because each culture is unique, lesson plans are adapted for the context and culture of the participants. The stories and illustrations may change, but the participatory process remains the same.
Outcomes of Successful Community Health Education
Successful CHE produces:
- Shared vision: The community sees a better future and has hope that it can be achieved.
- Ownership: People are taking responsibility for their own health and well being.
- Cooperation: People are united and working together for the common good.
- Multiplication: Knowledge and skills are being transmitted to others.
- Christian Community and Witness: People are becoming followers of Jesus. Believers are meeting together, and are sharing Christ with their neighbors in word and deed.
These outcomes change communities. Health improves, and God is glorified as a result of the solutions created and owned by the people, not programs delivered from the outside.