Know Your Bugs: A Collaborative Evaluation of a Community Health Education Module That Aims to be Accessible to Adults with Learning Disabilities

Owens, Rebecca (2022). Know Your Bugs: A Collaborative Evaluation of a Community Health Education Module That Aims to be Accessible to Adults with Learning Disabilities. PhD thesis The Open University.



The right to health should be a fundamental right of everyone. However, despite initiatives to improve the health of adults with learning disabilities, concerns about poorer health and health inequalities remain, and have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Accessible health promotion can help to overcome barriers to healthy behaviour but the effectiveness of health education in infection prevention and self-care is unknown. This research aimed to understand the health education experiences of adults with learning disabilities regarding a module designed to improve knowledge about self-care, infection prevention and antibiotic use.

Beginning with a scoping review of ‘what works’, this research involved observation of the learning context in two locations and semi-structured interviews with 18 course participants to explore health knowledge and behaviour change in the short, medium and longer term. Data were analysed iteratively, addressing the realist concept of context/mechanism/outcome configurations.

Participants had a positive learning experience and gained knowledge about microbes, hand hygiene, self-care, and antibiotic use. Some participants reported behaviour change regarding handwashing and self-care. The contexts that influenced learning were personal, social, physical, active, and external. Mechanisms that interacted with these contexts to trigger learning included: accessible teaching methods, interactive resources, relaxed and effective participant interactions, facilitation of independent thinking and planning, appropriate involvement of supporters, and an inclusive and engaging educator style.

Knowledge gain and changed behaviour intentions were achieved through an engaging, interactive, and focused learning environment, underpinned by a complex and changing combination of interactions. However, further research is needed to understand effective ways of communicating health information in an education context, to understand the impact of education on behaviour change, and to identify ways in which the longer-term retention of learning can be achieved. The research proposes a draft model that can guide effective community health education provision.

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