Philosophical Trends in Health Education: Implications for the 21st Century

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Journal of Health Education




The purpose of this study was to explore five health education philosophies: cognitive based, decision-making, behavior change, freeing/functioning, and social change. This was done in order to ascertain if there is a single dominant philosophy ascribed to by health educators, and discover any variations in philosophical preferences between health education academicians and practitioners.

The Health Education Philosophy Inventory (HEPI) was designed to answer these questions. Through a series of vignettes and a rank order exercise, HEPI determined both philosophical preference within educational settings and philosophical beliefs. Data were collected from a nationwide random sample of health education professionals through a mailed survey. Total response rate of usable inventories was 48.3 percent.

Content analysis determined the philosophical preference in educational settings was behavior change, followed by freeing/functioning. The stated philosophical preferences in the rank order exercise was decision-making. Statistically significant differences (p = .0059) were noted between academicians and practitioners in their choices in educational settings, yet stated philosophical beliefs were identical. Recommendations emanating from the study included future studies to be conducted to verify the findings. Philosophical preferences of health educators who work in settings other than community and university, i.e., school, worksite, and clinical, need be investigated.