Health Promotion Approaches

'Health promotion refers to a group of activities that help to prevent disease and improve health and well being' (Naidoo & Wills 2000). Elements of health promotion centre on disease prevention, health education and health information, public health promotion and community development. However, there are barriers to health promotion that need to be understood and challenged. From the service users' perspective, these may include:

• lack of knowledge or understanding and communication skills

• inappropriate and inaccessible services

• physical disabilities.

From the professionals' perspective, these may include:

• lack of knowledge and poor communication skills

• restrictions on their time

(Shaughnessy & Cruse 2001)

Within these perspectives, it is important to note that the adult with a learning disability has the right to expect the same level of service as an adult in the general population receives, regardless of barriers that may be in place. The King's Fund (1980) has argued that adults with learning disabilities have equal value to any other individual and this is reinforced by the White Paper Valuing People (Department of Health 2001a).

Health promotion aims to improve health and manage or prevent disease, using a deliberate approach (Tones & Tilford 1994). Health promotion is often targeted at specific health issues, aimed at the general public. The government commonly sets targets, such as reducing the number of teenage pregnancies or reducing deaths from coronary heart disease. Adults with learning disabilities may coincidentally be involved, but they are not specifically targeted. This becomes problematic when primary care staff and services fail to adopt strategies to include adults with learning disabilities. Shaughnessy and Cruse (2001) note that there needs to be a major shift in attitude from professional staff, carers and service users. They also point out that improvements for adults with learning disabilities will be improved by effective inter-agency teamwork, centred on the needs of adults with learning disabilities.

As carers and students, an essential role when working with adults with learning disabilities is to ensure that they have access to all health provision, as and when required. Indeed, it is a fundamental right, and is crucial in ensuring that adults with learning disabilities are participating and included as members of our community (O'Brien 1987). There are challenges ahead, but learning disability nurses need to demonstrate to those whom they support and care for that their role is critical in guaranteeing appropriate and timely interventions that sustain healthy lifestyles and access high-quality health care when ill, ultimately leading to the optimal health status for that individual.

A key aspect of the role of those who care for and support adults with learning disability is to convey health promotion messages at an appropriate level that the service user can understand. It may be commonly understood by the general public that eating five portions of fruit and vegetables per day is desirable as part of a balanced diet. Explaining this concept to a service user who is used to chips and beans requires the carer to deliver the message appropriately and sensibly. If the service user has a limited budget, telling him/her to change his/her eating habits will not result in a change in behaviour. Going shopping with him/her, devising menus and targeting specific changes that the service user can experience as making a difference will be much more effective in helping to modify lifestyle. These methods are supportive of 'positive and healthy lifestyles' (Cowley 1996), health promotion activities that stress the importance of self-determination and encourage independence and choice.

Body Language Basics

Body Language Basics

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