HEALTH EDUCATION AND FIRST AID TRAINING:
A BASIC ARENA FOR RED CROSS AND RED CRESCENT
VOLUNTARY SERVICES IN COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT
Organisers : French Red Cross, Swedish Red
Cross, Belgian Red Cross and Nigerian Red Cross
The world is currently facing a global health crisis.
Despite medical advances and increasing life expectancy, there is
disturbing evidence of rising disparities in health status amongst
people worldwide. There is now an urgent need to place health at
the top of the policy agenda. Every effort is needed to regain the
imperative that health, and health for all, is one of the most important
goals for everyone to strive for.
When looking at the major health issues (i.e. communicable
diseases and injuries), worldwide it strikes us that these issues
are not new and in fact are far less a result of a lack of high
tech interventions, advanced medical knowledge or the need for more
hospitals, but far more of the way people are living at the family
and community level. Not to contest the need to have more health
centres, medicines or technology, but it is certainly true that
a change in the lifestyle and quality of the living environment
would have far more impact and the major public health problems.
Therefore, a massive and long term support to health education is
needed, in order to change basic behavior at the family and community
With health education a holistic approach to health
can easier be addressed, showing the links between mental/physical
and internal/external health. Each of us has an internal capacity
which some of us have to rediscover to be much in harmony with their
body and mind - life energy. It also can deliver a thoughtful message
of the importance of finding inner peace. Accordingly, we shall
not be afraid of entering unchartered territory since we should
be much more a learning organisation. People can with very simple
measures and means learn how to keep good health and provide the
initial response to an emergency.
Building the capacity to deal with daily health needs
is merely to equip individuals, families and communities to be better
prepared and responsive at time of crisis, such as disaster, epidemic
or conflict. A poor person's only asset can be his/her body. That
is one of the answers to why poverty is one of the major factors
that influences people's vulnerability and health. Development research
has shown that preventive health and especially health education
is one of the most effective measures to fight poverty.
Effective health education is not dependent on huge
resources or technical expertise. Good health and life saving measures
are not on the first hand a result of well developed health care
but rather a result of good infrastructure and communication tools
since that makes it possible to reach out with health education.
In today's world the biggest obstacles to "health for all" are not
technical, but rather social and political. A particular focus is
needed on the participation and involvement of the concerned people
(the vulnerable) and actors (the volunteers), for the assessment
of the problems, the prioritisation of the actions and the evaluation
of results and impact.
The Red Cross/Red Crescent has a long history of working
in the field of health. From the early beginning the focus being
of course to care for the wounded on the battlefield which in the
1920's was enlarged to comprise health education and first aid training.
The Red Cross/Red Crescent is through its first aid programs a giant
in education and a reference related voice. Since the last decade
efforts have been veered towards community participation.
An approach that has shown being a winning one since
it takes into account the particularities of the target populations
and their living environments. It has been translated into the First
Aid policy adopted by the 1999 General Assembly. This policy emphasise
and highlight the fact that Red Cross/Red Crescent First Aid training
should be community based oriented, requesting the participation
of the beneficiaries and including information on how to prevent
injury and illness. This service is much more efficient being focused
on target groups of the population, such as the children, as well
as being implemented within the living environment of the people.
That recognises First Aid as a privileged vehicle for the Red Cross/Red
Crescent to contribute to health promotion and education. As members
of the communities which they serve and represent, volunteers have
a central and essential role in the provision of First Aid. Furthermore
the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has to look at flexible
roles of the volunteers according to the changing needs of the communities.
They could be facilitators, catalysts, advocates, counsellors, educators,
etc. The volunteers should accordingly receive training and support
to achieve their tasks. Further action is needed fast being cost-effective.
What is needed is a consistent commitment from all the concerned
parties through working relationships and partnerships between all
the concerned parties : governments, UN agencies, National Societies,
the public and the private sector, as well as the communities. There
are complementary roles to improve the lives of the vulnerable people,
to reduce the costs of health care systems and to provide positive
impact on the socio-economic development of communities and societies.
Creating a favourable environment for health education,
particularly thorough First Aid training activities, will help people
and their communities to better understand and share the responsibility
for protecting and saving more lives.
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