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HLPE1540 How has the Inquiry Project experience advanced my understandings of

what good health education might be, and why?


Sian Young
The inquiry project experience advanced my understandings of what good health
education might be by showing me the negative impacts an un-fulfilled experience of
health education can have on a person and/or a community of people. My group did
our presentation on sexual health, and focused on the stigma of STIs among young
people, centring teenagers and young adults. As my group are all women who fit into
this age bracket, I found that it was easy to analyse how young women, with enough
money to be able to attend university, with English-speaking backgrounds in Australia
experience sexual health. Because of this particular group of people, it was easy for
me to see how a good health education may differ from what we had learnt in the
past.
My responsibility for the presentation was to analyse how the media presents young
people in relation to sexual health, and the stigma that carries on from this. Through
doing so, it was easy to see how the media can push young people to feel as if they
are dirty, gross and unwanted if they contract an STI. An example of this is the memes
on social media websites such as Facebook, as they present women with STIs as
something men should keep away from. The investigation into this advanced my
understandings of what good health education might be by emphasising the
importance of de-stigmatising the experience of STIs and presenting them as an
illness that can happen to anyone, no matter how many sexual partners they have. A
video that my group showed during our presentation, (Luke Warm Sex: The STI House,
2016) was one of the only recent videos about STIs that has been popular in Australia
in 2016 on TV. Because of this, it becomes clear that the sexual health topic in this
form of media has been somewhat phased out, and that comedians take on the role of
educators for sexual health, as they are able to present information in an effective
way without seeming boring or repetitive. Through the experience of this, my
understanding of what good health education might be advanced, to include the idea
that health education does not just include school curriculum, but also what is said in
the media, as this has a large impact upon how young people understand health. An
example of what good health education might be in this context is one which the
media presents sociologically, i.e. that all people experience health differently
depending on their socio-economic status, ethnicity, where they live etc. Through the
Inquiry Project experience, I reflected upon the extent to which young people are
influenced by the media. In investigating this, I came to understand that young people

HLPE1540 How has the Inquiry Project experience advanced my understandings of


what good health education might be, and why?
Sian Young
are possibly the most influenced by what is said on the news, on Facebook and by how
the media presents celebrities opinions. Because of the impressionable nature of
young people, it is important that health through the media is presented as something
which is experienced differently by all individuals and groups of people, in particular in
reference to sexual health, as this is a predominant part of many young peoples lives.
An example of this, is that a celebrity being shamed by the media for having multiple
sexual partners can persuade young people to believe that this is a reasonable way to
perceive people. As this advanced my understanding of what good health education
might be, I understood that an outlet such as social media is partially non-censorable,
and that parents, teachers and those in the education department who devise the
curriculum, may have the responsibility of teaching young people that many aspects
of social media are written to persuade groups of people.
Expanding upon what it means to have a good health education, my group and I
discussed our personal experience with doctors in regards to sexual health. From
these discussions, I have found that in some situations, doctors can be less than
helpful with their remarks and attitudes surrounding young peoples sexual health.
While I can recognise that this experience may be limited to young women living in
Australia, the knowledge which can be gained from this relates to health education,
and what it means to have a good health education. The procedures required and
questions asked during sessions with doctors such as obtaining a prescription for the
Pill, have been known to be negative as some doctors have prior expectations
regarding young people and sexual activity. Through the Inquiry Project experience,
my understanding of what a good health education might be has advanced by
considering the education and training given to doctors. From the Inquiry Project
experience, I have considered that the training given to doctors may be more
successful if doctors are trained to view health in a sociological way in some
situations, such as when working with minority groups. This would comprise a good
health education as it would allow doctors to consider why their patient is needing this
particular attention, and may help young people, and minorities feel more safe and
comfortable attending a doctors appointment. As I do not have much prior knowledge
about the training that doctors do receive, I am unaware of the training that occurs
regarding this aspect of the medical profession, and there is therefore a possibility
that this sociological training already occurs. Despite this, the Inquiry Project
experience has advanced my understandings of what good health education might be,

HLPE1540 How has the Inquiry Project experience advanced my understandings of


what good health education might be, and why?
Sian Young
and why, in regards to training received by doctors. Having positive experiences with
doctors early on helps people to feel comfortable talking to doctors throughout their
lives, potentially helping to prevent the delaying of visiting doctors, and therefore
promoting better health.
As the inquiry project prompted me to think about sexual health education, I reflected
on my own sexual health education in high school. STIs were explained to the class as
something that will be much less likely to occur if people have only one, or preferably
none sexual partner(s), and that refraining from forms of sexual activity is the most
effective way of preventing STIs. Through the Inquiry Project, I have come to
understand why this teaching of sexual health is problematic, as young people can
feel shame for wanting to, or engaging in sexual activity. A more suitable way of
teaching sexual health would be to teach students how different forms of protection
can be used, as telling students to not engage in sexual activity in order to prevent
any health issue that can occur from doing so, is not likely to prevent them from
engaging in this behaviour. This alternative approach is an example of good health
education as it does not attempt to scare students away from what they have, and will
engage in during the future, but rather allows them to understand that wanting to
have sex and having sex is normal, but there is a way to do so which is safe. In
reference to how STIs are explained in my experience of high school, I do not recall
being taught the symptoms of many STIs, and the fact that some do not present
symptoms, or the importance of having this checked by a doctor. My Inquiry Project
group attempted to exemplify what good health education may look like, by
presenting these ideas through the listing of symptoms which are easy to understand.
In conjunction with this, I attempted to show my understanding of how our experience
of health education would vary depending on many factors, such as people of
different age groups, ethnicities, socio-economic status and in differing countries
from my group and I, and their differing experience sexual health education. While
doing research for our presentation, I came across the book Health Communication
and Mass Media: An Integrated Approach to Policy and Practice (Ahmed, Bates 2013).
This book explores the differing experiences of sexual health within particular groups.
An example of how this part of the Inquiry Project experience advanced my
understandings of what good health education might be is, According to the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC 2009), sexually active adolescents aged 15
19 years and young adults aged 20 24 years are at a higher risk of acquiring STIs

HLPE1540 How has the Inquiry Project experience advanced my understandings of


what good health education might be, and why?
Sian Young
than are older adults. This risk in part is due to a combination of behavioural,
biological, and cultural issues younger people encounter while attending college.
(Ahmed, Bates 2013, pp. 65-66). This approach to understanding health further
explained that the experience of health is not straightforward, but complex with
integrating factors which affect this experience.
During the Inquiry Project experience, the opportunity to watch other groups
presentations on other aspects of health education advanced my understanding of
what good health education might be and why, in regards to the wide range of health
topics which were discussed. An example of this is the fact that all groups explored
their health aspect sociologically, in order to allow the class to understand how this
approach to health is more positive in regards to prevention. A presentation which
stood out to me was a member of one group creating an activity, in which the class
was to devise a rebuttal to an example of someone failing to think about another
persons choices sociologically. This advanced my understanding of what good health
education might be as this sociological approach allowed the class to analyse the
many reasons why someone is making a particular choice, and the interplay of
reasons behind this.
Through watching presentations, it became clear that most members of the class had
similar outlooks when it came to viewing health through a sociological lens.
Throughout this experience, I came to understand that this sociological explanation of
health is an example of good health education, because it focuses on prevention
rather than treatment, and analyses why health is experienced differently by all
people, and how important this is when aiming to analyse health inequalities.
References:
Ahmed, R. and Bates, B. (2013). Health Communication and Mass Media. Farnham:
Ashgate Publishing Ltd.
Luke Warm Sex: The STI House. (2016). [video] Australia: ABC TV.