The Role of Community Health Agents in Northeastern Brazil: An Analysis of Health Knowledge Transfer in the Community
The objective of this study was to describe and evaluate the health education component of a community health program in Pacatuba, a municipality in the Brazilian state of Ceará. The study focuses on health-related knowledge, measured through questionnaire-guided interviews, in the community and among the health agents as an indicator of program success. The sample size consisted of 18 health agents and 44 households, of which 28 were urban and 16 were rural. Comparisons between urban and rural households and general trends in knowledge transfer were examined. These observations then formed the basis for recommendations to increase program success. Overall, white agents revealed high levels of health-related knowledge, the results from the community sample varied. The community displayed proficient knowledge with respect to oral rehydration therapy preparation and use, the role of vaccines, and the purpose of prenatal exams. However, there was less subject knowledge regarding the function of child weighing, the importance of breastfeeding, and the knowledge of several family planning methods. Some of the factors believed to influence knowledge transfer to the community include the quality of health agent supervision, the supply of the agents' materials, and health orientations in the community. The possibilities for dealing with these concerns are discussed and elements for further program enhancement in health knowledge transfer, such as organizational stabilization and creative health education methods, are considered.
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