22.04.2014 - UNESCO Office in Santiago

UNESCO Santiago offered a workshop on health literacy in Cuba

Mary Guinn Delaney, Health and HIV Education Advisor in Cuba

Exchanging education and health promotion best practices and new knowledge, as well as proposing cross-sector strategies to foster healthy lifestyles: these were among the activities taken on by regional specialists during the 1st International Congress of Schools that Promote Health, and the 9th Regional Health Education and Promotion Workshop for schools and universities, held in early April 2014 in Havana, Cuba.

In the framework of these activities, UNESCO Santiago organized the pre-congress workshop “Health Literacy: Possibilities and Opportunities for Latin America”, an event led by regional HIV and health education advisor Mary Guinn Delaney, together with a multidisciplinary team from the Universidad de Concepción (Chile).

The workshop was held on 7 April, 2014, at the Palacio de Convenciones convention centre in Havana, drawing together participants from the principal congress, health promotion experts, representatives of health and education ministries, and members of civil society organizations to discuss theoretical models and concepts of health literacy; to review international experiences and the principal measurement instruments and methodologies applied to such initiatives, and to discuss possibilities for application in Latin America and the Caribbean. The attendees also considered the framework of health literary to be relevant for public policy and identified needs and possibilities for research, technical support, and horizontal co-operation in the region.

UNESCO takes a very strong interest in health education. UNESCO promotes good policies and practice in the education sector, helps partners create safe learning environments, and promotes life skills-based instruction through modern, interactive teaching methods.

Recent efforts include providing technical guidance on sexuality education, supporting educational responses to homophobic bullying, and strengthening monitoring systems of national school health programmes. Major UNESCO activities in the region include integrating lessons learned in sexuality education and HIV prevention in the school environment with wide-ranging experience in health promotion in schools and universities across Latin America.

Talking about the issues discussed in Cuba, UNESCO regional advisor Mary Guinn Delaney stressed the importance of these topics: “The conceptual framework of health literacy goes beyond disease prevention, and incorporates issues or education, promotion, and better management of the health system by those in need of care. It also includes a significant element of collective action and public policy, in both health and education.  Although this framework has formed the basis for major research, analysis, and advocacy projects in other regions, the approach that it implies is little-known in Latin America.  It could be useful in areas such as sexuality education, childhood obesity, and basic education in the skills of promoting healthy lifestyles among young people.

The pre-congress workshop also featured Herman van Hooff, regional director of UNESCO in Havana; Dr. Martin Zilic Hrepic of the Faculty of Medicine at the Universidad de Concepción (Chile); Dr. María Paz Casanova Laudien of the same university’s Department of Statistics; Dr. Omar Salazar Provoste, of the Faculty of Humanities and Arte at the Universidad de Concepción; and Paula de Orue Ríos, of the same university’s Public Health Department.  Other participants included Dr. Giselda Sanabria Ramos, director of Cuba’s National School of Public Health (ENSAP) and UNESCO Havana education specialist Miguel Llivina Lavinge.

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UNESCO works to achieve Education for All by promoting the health of every individual within the school community.  UNESCO's work contributes to Focusing Resources on Effective School Health (FRESH), a partnership of UN agencies, national governments, and civil society working to promote cost-effective activities to make schools healthy.

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