Journal Article

Promoting health literacy: a case study in the prevention of diarrhoeal disease from Bangladesh

Raquiba A. Jahan

in Health Promotion International

Volume 15, issue 4, pages 285-291
Published in print December 2000 | ISSN: 0957-4824
Published online December 2000 | e-ISSN: 1460-2245 | DOI:
Promoting health literacy: a case study in the prevention of diarrhoeal disease from Bangladesh

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The relationship between health education and health literacy is examined through a case study of a project to prevent diarrhoea in rural Bangladesh by CARE-Bangladesh in 1993. Health professionals in Bangladesh typically define health education as a one-way approach of information dissemination. Achieving health literacy implies that health education not only relays information, but also enhances a person's ability to think about healthy behaviours, seek and use information, and motivates people to take action to improve health. This paper illustrates how a traditional health education program failed to bring expected changes in the community to improve health. It then describes the development and implementation of the SAFE (Sanitation and Family Education) project by CARE-Bangladesh. SAFE is a diarrhoea prevention program which illustrates the concept of health literacy as a step to improved health outcomes. Emphasis is given on the dynamic process of communication, community needs and participation, identification of problems related to socio-economic and environmental factors, and role of the field workers. It argues that health promotion interventions must respond to the local context and needs to be continually reviewed and revised as necessary. Lessons learned and achievements of SAFE are highlighted. The paper suggests that readers review whether their existing programs are doing enough to raise health literacy and improve health outcomes, or if they are merely increasing awareness of related issues.

Keywords: Bangladesh; diarrhoea; health education; health literacy

Journal Article.  3878 words. 

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology

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