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Enhancing Low-Income Parents' Capacities to Promote Their Children's Health: Education Is Not Enough

Authors

  • Deanna L Williamson Ph.D.,

    1. Deanna L. Williamson is an Assistant Professor, Department of Human Ecology, and Jane Drummond is a Professor, Faculty of Nursing, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta.
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  • Jane Drummond R.N., Ph.D.

    1. Deanna L. Williamson is an Assistant Professor, Department of Human Ecology, and Jane Drummond is a Professor, Faculty of Nursing, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta.
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Address correspondence to Deanna Williamson, Department of Human Ecology, University of Alberta, 302 Human Ecology Building, Edmonton, Alberta, T6G 2N1. E-mail: deanna.williamson@ualberta.ca

Abstract

In 1996 the Capital Heath Region in Edmonton, Alberta integrated a primary health care component into Head Start programs. One aspect of the primary health care component (PHC-HS) was a series of education sessions aimed at strengthening parents' capacities to enhance their children's health. To make the education sessions relevant, 10 focus groups with 65 parents of children who attended Head Start were conducted prior to the sessions. Findings indicated that participants' ability to enhance their children's health and manage their children's illnesses was limited as much by low incomes, inadequate health care coverage, and lack of transportation as it was by a lack of knowledge. Results provide evidence that health education sessions alone are not adequate to significantly enhance low-income parents' capacities to promote their children's health. Efforts to strengthen the abilities of low-income individuals and families to promote their health will be most effective if health education is accompanied by policy advocacy and social action strategies that challenge the socioeconomic and political conditions that negatively affect health. Public health nursing's commitment to social justice, as well as findings about the limitations that low incomes, inadequate health care benefits, and lack of transportation placed on participants' ability to enhance their children's health, underscore the need for public health nurses (PHNs) to address structural conditions contributing to health inequities. As such, an overview of literature that details strategies and theoretical models for challenging socioeconomic and political conditions which restrict the ability of low-income individuals and families to enhance their health is provided.

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