Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine

Living Edition
| Editors: Marc Gellman

Health Education

  • Linda C. Baumann
  • Alyssa Ylinen
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-6439-6_320-2



The World Health Organization defines health education as “any combination of learning experiences designed to help individuals and communities improve their health, by increasing their knowledge or influencing their attitudes.”


Because knowledge alone may not be powerful enough to motivate change, health education works to enhance knowledge, attitudes, and skills to positively influence health behaviors of individuals and communities.

Adult learning theory is an important construct to consider for effective health education. Malcolm Knowles has identified five crucial assumptions about the characteristics of adult learners. These characteristics are (1) self-concept, as a person matures, they move from a dependent personality to a self-directed one; (2) experience, an accumulation of experiences are a resource for learning; (3) readiness to learn, an adult’s readiness to learn is oriented to the tasks of their social...

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References and Further Reading

  1. Allender, J. A., Rector, C., & Warner, K. D. (2010). Community health nursing: Promoting and protecting the public’s health. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.Google Scholar
  2. Knowles, M. (1973). The adult learner: Neglected species. Houston: Gulf Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  3. Knowles, M., & Associates. (1984). Andragogy in action: Applying modern principles of adult Learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  4. Smith, M. K. (2009). Andragogy. The encyclopedia of informal education. Retrieved July 7, 2017, from http://www.infed.org/lifelonglearning/b-andra.htm
  5. Taylor, C., Lillis, C., LeMine, P., & Lynn, P. (2008). Fundamentals of nursing: The art and science of nursing care (6th ed.). Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.Google Scholar
  6. The Coalition of National Health Education Organizations. (2017). What is health education? Retrieved July 7, 2017, from http://www.cnheo.org/PDF files/health_ed.pdf
  7. Wallace, R. B., Kohatsu, N., & Last, J. M. (2007). Public health & preventive medicine (15th ed.). New York: McGraw Hill Medical.Google Scholar
  8. World Health Organization. (2017). Health education. Retrieved July 7, 2017, from http://www.who.int/topics/health_education/en/

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of NursingUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA
  2. 2.Allina Health SystemSt. PaulUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Marc D. Gellman
    • 1
  1. 1.Behavioral Medicine Research Center, Department of PsychologyUniversity of MiamiMiamiUSA