180627 Future is Now: Students' Attitudes toward and Beliefs in the Importance of Health Education Advocacy

Monday, October 27, 2008: 8:45 AM

Susan M. Radius, PhD, CHES , Professor, Health Science Department, Towson University, Towson, MD
Marlene K. Tappe, PhD, CHES , Department of Health Science, Minnesota State University- Mankato, Mankato, MN
Regina A. Galer-Unti, PhD, CHES , School of Health Sciences, Walden University, Minneapolis, MN
Purpose: A recent health educator competency, advocacy is now entering undergraduate curricula. Little understood, however, is students' readiness for or belief in their ability to advocate. The purpose of this study was to explore undergraduates' experiences in and attitudes toward health education advocacy.

Methods: Surveys were completed by 520 undergraduates in health education/health sciences. ANOVA, t-tests and other inferential methods explored students' perceptions of importance, personal involvement in, and willingness to advocate for health and health education.

Results: Of all respondents (>50% sophomore/junior; mean age = 21), 60% had no coursework in advocacy; >80% lacked advocacy experience (state, local or federal). While >91% concurred in the importance of health educators as advocates, fewer (70%) thought students should learn to be advocates and even fewer (60%) supported required advocacy coursework. Though >80% felt students' voice must be heard, <50% expressed confidence in their advocacy abilities. Only 8% perceived classwork as sufficient advocacy preparation. Students differed significantly (p<05) by age, experience, and advocacy involvement in their perceived competence to be effective advocates. Among other significant findings (p<05), student perceptions of advocacy's importance differed according to their openness to advocacy experiences.

Conclusions: Teaching about advocacy is a relatively new pedagogical imperative. We must examine the extent to which students embrace, understand, and are engaged in advocacy if education is to increase future professionals' competence in advocacy. Pre-service practica and professional societies appear productive venues to enhance students' receptiveness to and acceptance of their role as health education advocates.

Learning Objectives:
(1) to describe student readiness to advocate for themselves and for health education & promotion (2) to understand studentsí experience in and apprehensions regarding advocacy (3) to identify educational emphases that respond to studentsí perceived deficiencies (4) to identify areas for further development to enhance studentsí interest and efficacy in advocating for health & health education

Keywords: Advocacy, Health Advocacy

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am CHES and lead investigator of the project
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.