What is health promotion

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In brief, health promotion is usually either a government initiative or commercial idea to make people aware and responsible for their own health. This can be approached by many methods such as providing information about health risks and hazards, by getting people to participate in learning techniques or organising individuals to act collectively in order to change their physical and social environments. These can be achieved through such methods as leaflets, posters, magazines, newspapers, the internet, keep fit and slimming classes and campaigns such as ‘Cycle to work campaign’ or ‘Campaigns against phone masts’.

Most promotion material is geared towards particular target groups such as teenagers, middle aged men, children, OAPs and pregnant women. The target group that I will be looking at for this project is pregnant women. My main reasons for choosing this group is because I have 3 children and understand why information to pregnant women is so important and why they are particularly vulnerable. Pregnant women are at a fairly fragile/critical part in their lives and whilst not ill, they can often be overlooked in terms of provision of health care, especially in their first trimester.

I am also interested to see if or how health promotion has improved and developed since my last pregnancy. For example whether development in research has bought about any new information that I was not aware of during my pregnancies. Also how promotion techniques into this focus group have advanced. The first piece of health promotion material I will be looking at is a leaflet (1), produced by the Health Education Authority, titled ‘Give your baby a head start’. The purpose of this leaflet is to make women aware of the risks of smoking during pregnancy and to give them advice on how to give up.

The first page of the leaflet has been written in such a way as to try and scare women into giving up. This has been done by using a celebrity who has suffered the unfortunate event of losing a baby to cot death. The lady has written a small piece on how giving up smoking reduces the risk of cot death. Rather than just listing the risks that smoking has to the individual the leaflet try’s to appeal to the readers protective maternal instincts by ensuring that they are aware of the reduction of physical harm giving up smoking will have on their unborn child.

The leaflet then goes on to give the reader a stop smoking plan. This leaflet is useful in the fact that it gives the reader some insight into what damage smoking in pregnancy can do and also gives a fairly comprehensive plan to help the reader quit. In my view though, I feel that it is not exclusively geared towards pregnant women, to me it is another standard ‘Give up smoking’ leaflet with a small section geared towards my focus group. This section could be improved to give a more in depth view of the risks and damage caused by smoking.

I also feel that the use of the celebrity is not necessary mainly because it is not actually stated whether she smoked during her pregnancy, therefore we do not know whether her piece is actually relevant for this leaflet. The second piece of material is an article from the Baby Centre website (2) titled ‘Why you need folic acid’. This article starts with informing the reader on why, during pregnancy, it is important to take folic acid and gives details of the birth defects taking this supplement can prevent. It then goes on to inform the reader of how much folic acid is needed, for how long and what are the best food sources.

I found this extremely useful as often pregnant women are just told to take folic acid supplements in tablet form up until 12 weeks of pregnancy. Where in this article it actually tells us that we can get folic acid from different types of food rather than buying the often expensive supplements and that although it is best to take it up to 12 weeks, it will not harm the baby if continued throughout the pregnancy. The article is very concise and to the point and if the reader requires more information on certain subjects they have provided links to other web pages.

In my view I do not feel that this article requires any improvement as it provides the reader with more than enough information without drowning them in technical jargon and losing their interest. My third piece is a very useful article titled ‘Drugs and pregnancy’ (3) found on the ‘Drug help’ website. The first paragraph of this article is a short but informative account of someone who has taken drugs during the first 2 months of her pregnancy, which has resulted in birth defects. Again this is aimed to try and scare the reader in to thinking twice about taking drugs either before or after conception.

It then gives us an account of the effects of drugs on different stages of pregnancy. Rather than stopping at this, which most ‘Drugs in pregnancy’ articles do, it then lists the different kinds of drugs from alcohol to illegal drugs and also prescribed medications and gives very concise reports of the effects of each drug specifically. This is extremely useful as a lot of women may be aware that illegal drugs are dangerous but not realising that tobacco, alcohol and prescribed medications can also have such a profound affect.

This article could be improved by listing help lines specifically for pregnant women who have a drug addiction. It would also be helpful to have this article on an actual pregnancy website rather than a site particually geared towards drug users. The fourth piece of material is a booklet provided by ‘Tommy’s baby charity’ titled ‘Toxoplasmosis and pregnancy’ (4). This booklet first tells us briefly about the infection, how it is caught and the effects it has on pregnant women. There are then 7 pages of information on the blood tests required, the procedure and the timing of the results.

This is very concise and helpful and gives the reader an insight into exactly how the infection is detected. The majority of times this kind of information is excluded from health promotion material. There is then a section on how to find out if the baby is infected during pregnancy or after the birth and the treatments that are available for the baby. This information is well set out and put in the context of questions and answers, covering the majority of questions any pregnant women would ask.

The booklet finishes with a list of precautions to take to help prevent catching toxoplasmosis. Improving this booklet would be difficult because although it is very long and detailed it is written in fairly simple terms, even including diagrams, so that it is easily readable and understandable. For someone who had never heard of toxoplasmosis, after reading this they would have all the information they need to avoid the infection. My fifth choice of material is an article from the BBC News website titled ‘Smoking in pregnancy creates child smokers’ (5).

Although is this a very short article it is actually quite effective. Rather than list the medical reasons for not smoking during pregnancy it just focuses on new research conducted at the University of Pittsburgh. This research has shown that children who are exposed to tobacco smoke whilst in the womb are more likely to experiment with smoking at a young age. Rather than trying to appeal to just the mothers protective maternal instincts they are aiming to show everyone the effects of smoking in pregnancy.

This piece of material is an article that is available to all of the general public and could be read by anyone from the mother, father, friends and family therefore increasing the chance of the message getting across. This article is very short and could be written in a little more detail but in my view it is just as effective as it puts the point across. They could improve it by adding links to other web pages detailing the research, so that the readers who wish to know more about the research can do so. My final piece is an article in ‘Pregnancy’ magazine titled ‘Tone up for birth’ (6).

This article works on showing the reader the benefits of antenatal exercise through Pilates. Pilates being a form of exercise that works on gentle movements to tone up muscles. This form of exercise can be used by anyone but this article is trying to show the reader how it is particularly beneficial to pregnant women as it uses the muscles that are essential during labour and rapid post natal recovery. There are small sections explaining that how working on different areas of the body, can alleviate any problems for the pregnant women.

This is useful as often, pregnant women are told to do the basic pelvic floor exercises but not informed of how to look after the other vulnerable areas. The article is well set out with a series of photos and instructions on how to carry out the exercises. You often find that a lot of articles on exercise can be hard to follow with complex instructions, but this is kept quite simple and quality photos give the reader confidence to carry out the tasks. The problem with this article is that it is solely geared towards promoting Pilates rather than caring for the pregnant body in general.

They could improve it by writing a small section on how to avoid stress on the back and pelvis by avoiding heavy lifting and weight bearing. Health promotion material aimed at pregnant women is in content, satisfactory. My main critisim is that I found it fairly hard to find. A midwife can only provide the majority of material and as most pregnant women do not see a midwife before 12 weeks of pregnancy, this is very unhelpful. The internet I found was the best source of information but not all women have access to it.

I even found that my local hospital and doctor’s surgery had little or no information on display. Pregnancy magazines are easy to find but often very expensive and women from some social groups would not always be able to afford them. I feel that an effort should be made to make health promotion material more readily available in the high street not just through hospitals and surgery’s. I feel that it would be extremely useful to provide information geared towards teenagers that could be made available through colleges and universities, as teenage pregnancy is fairly common in this day and age.

It would be useful if the local health authority wrote a monthly magazine on pregnancy that could be sold at a lower price than other magazines. This could be made available through local newsagents and not contain any advertising in it so not to be biased on certain issues and products. The content of the majority of material is usually quite useful and comprehensive, although sometimes a little difficult to read and understand. This could be improved by simplifying some of the content as to help all social groups understand.

Nowhere in my search did I find material written in any other language than English. This needs to be reviewed and provided as we now live in a multi cultural society. Finally, although generally a pregnancy pack is given to all expectant mothers by their midwifes at 12 weeks, this is not completely satisfactory. By this time the fetus is fully formed and if women do not have access to the information before, damage could be caused by ignorance of certain health issues. This could be improved by handing out a pregnancy pack at the patient’s initial visit to her G. P at about 4-6 weeks.

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