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Original Research

Health promotion and empowerment in Henganofi District, Papua New Guinea

Submitted: 3 April 2015
Revised: 18 October 2016
Accepted: 18 October 2016
Published: 24 December 2016

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Author(s) : Barcham R, Silas E, Irie J.

Richard BarchamEsther SilasJesse Irie

Citation: Barcham R, Silas E, Irie J.  Health promotion and empowerment in Henganofi District, Papua New Guinea. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2016; 16: 3553. Available: http://www.rrh.org.au/articles/subviewnew.asp?ArticleID=3553 (Accessed 21 February 2017)

ABSTRACT

Evidence shows that the government of Papua New Guinea is failing to provide basic services in health to the majority of its people. Local non-government organisations (NGOs), partnered with international NGOs, are attempting to fill this gap. With limited resources, these small Indigenous organisations must focus much of their effort on training that supports self-reliance as the main strategy for communities to improve their quality of life. This project explored the training content and methodology of Touching The Untouchables (TTU), a small Indigenous NGO based in Goroka, Eastern Highlands Province, that has trained a network of village volunteers in health promotion and safe motherhood.
Village life imposes multiple demands, from self-sufficiency in food to maintaining law and order. There are established attitudes about power and dependence, referred to as ‘cargo thinking’. Cargo thinking stands as a barrier to the necessity of self-reliance, and requires training strategies that seek to empower participants to create change from their own initiative. Empowerment is understood as oriented towards individual people taking collective action to improve their circumstances by rectifying disparities in social power and control. To achieve self-reliance, empowerment is necessarily operational on the levels of person, community and society.
In addition to being operational on all three levels of empowerment, the training content and methodology adopted and developed by TTU demonstrate that empowering practice in training employs approaches to knowledge that are evidence-based, reflexive, contextual and skill-based. Creating knowledge that is reflexive and exploring knowledge about the broader context uses special kinds of communicative tools that facilitate discussion on history, society and political economy. Furthermore, training methodologies that are oriented to empowerment create settings that require the use of all three types of communication required for cooperative action: dramaturgical, normative and teleological communication.
The success of TTU’s training content and methodology demonstrates that creating the conditions for achieving collective self-reliance through empowerment is a necessary part of primary health promotion in Papua New Guinea, and that underlying the success of empowerment oriented training are definable types of knowledge and communication.

Key words: empowerment, health promotion, Papua New Guinea, self-reliance, village health volunteers.

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