• Health inequalities as a foundation for embodying knowledge within public health teaching: a qualitative study

      Mabhala, Mzwandile A.; University of Chester (BioMed Central, 2013-06-28)
      Introduction: Recent UK health policies identified nurses as key contributors to the social justice agenda of reducing health inequalities, on the assumption that all nurses understand and wish to contribute to public health. Following this policy shift, public health content within pre-registration nursing curricula increased. However, public health nurse educators (PHNEs) had various backgrounds, and some had limited formal public health training, or involvement in or understanding of policy required to contribute effectively to it. Their knowledge of this subject, their understanding and interpretation of how it could be taught, was not fully understood. Methodology This research aimed to understand how public health nurse educators’ professional knowledge could be conceptualised and to develop a substantive theory of their knowledge of teaching public health, using a qualitative data analysis approach. Qualitative in-depth semi-structured interviews (n=26) were conducted with eleven university-based PHNEs. Results Integrating public health into all aspects of life was seen as central to the knowing and teaching of public health; this was conceptualised as ‘embodying knowledge’. Participants identified the meaning of embodying knowledge for teaching public health as: (a) possessing a wider vision of health; (b) reflecting and learning from experience; and (c) engaging in appropriate pedagogical practices. Conclusion The concept of public health can mean different things to different people. The variations of meaning ascribed to public health reflect the various backgrounds from which the public health workforce is drawn. The analysis indicates that PHNEs are embodying knowledge for teaching through critical pedagogy, which involves them engaging in transformative, interpretive and integrative processes to refashion public health concepts; this requires PHNEs who possess a vision of what to teach, know how to teach, and are able to learn from experience. Their vision of public health is influenced by social justice principles in that health inequalities, socioeconomic determinants of health, epidemiology, and policy and politics are seen as essential areas of the public health curriculum. They believe in forms of teaching that achieve social transformation at individual, behavioural and societal levels, while also enabling learners to recognise their capacity to effect change.