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Suwasáriya(Healthnet)
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About us

Present

Health Education Bureau (HEB) is the centre of excellence in Sri Lanka for health education, health promotion and publicity of health information. Empowering and mobilizing communities for the improvement of their quality of life through health promotion principles is the main achievement gained for last few years.

HEB is at the present headed  by the Director Health education and Publicity. The Director is assisted by the deputy Director, and a team of Consultant Community Physicians, Consultant Community Dental Surgeons, Medical Officers, Dental Surgeons, Health Education Officers, Publicity Officer, Administrative and supportive staff.

National Health Promotion policy, communication strategies on nutrition and Non Communicable Diseases (NCD) prevention developed by HEB provide common objectives to be achieved by different sectors and technical guidelines to assure the standards of health promotion activities. Public awareness aiming for healthy behavior changes in the community through mass media is a unique service that has been providing for years by HEB and appraised by all sectors. Apart from that, HEB plays a vital role in public awareness about health promotion and healthy behavior changes by actively participating mass scale health exhibitions, national campaign days, and organization and community events such as “Deyata Kirula”, “Suwa Udana” etc. Various types of health education materials have been produced over the period to address emerging health issues such as Dengue, Leptospirosis, malnutrition and non communicable diseases. Developing households and public places such as hospital, school, villages, work place etc as health promotion settings is another successful program conducts by HEB.

Apart from undergraduate and postgraduate training, continuous in service training has been carried out for health care staff and other personals involving or interested in health promotion.  Routinely, HEB provides technical consultation for advisory committees, workshops, research and surveys and very often invited by other public organizations to share its expertise.

A recent achievement is launching this Health net “Suwasariya” website and call centre for the public. It provides fast and simple expert advice in all three languages about any health issue and what to do next through telephone calls, e mails or skype and supported by tri lingual web site which contains a lot of information about health.

As a whole, HEB has been successful and received recognition for its remarkable contribution for health promotion through integrated multidisciplinary approach.

History

The Health Education services in the country dates back to the mid-twentieth century. IN the initial stages it functioned as a small unit of the public health section of the Department of Health Services and consisted of two units. One at the Head Office manned by a sociologist designated as the Chief Health Education Officer, health education officer and two Publicity officers. The other unit was the Health Education Material Production Unit (HEMPU) manned by a trained Public Health Inspector. The main focus was the prevention of common communicable diseases prevalent at the time such as malaria, worm infestations, diarrhoeal diseases and typhoid fever, through public meetings, distribution of public health materials such as posters, leaflets and brochures. The newsletter “Sapatha” began its publications in the nineteen fifties and was useful to enhance the knowledge of health workers.

The next important development was the establishment of the district level units, each in charge of a Public Health inspector, trained in Health Education and designated as a Health Educator. They were responsible for the services in the district under the guidance of the Central Unit. Each district was provided with a vehicle fitted with audio/visual equipment such as projectors, loud speakers etc. While the major functions of the Health Education Officers (HEOs) continued to remain largely focused on information dissemination, they also assisted the field health staff in their health education activities by providing them with educational material and some guidance in their use.

The major re-organisation of the services was in the mid-nineteen seventies with the appointment of a full time medical officer in the administrative grade and with postgraduate qualifications majoring in Health education and designated as Assistant Director, Health Education (present Director, Health education and Publicity) in charge of the unit. The section at the Head Office was merged with the materials production Unit to form a single organisational unit named as the Health Education Division of the Ministry of Health.

Within the next few years with the support of the WHO, there was rapid development of the organisation into a fully fledged bureau on the lines similar to the Family Health Bureau.

Only those with graduate qualifications selected from the existing cadres of PHIs and PHNs were recruited to the service to train as HEOs. They had to successfully complete the Certificate course in Health Education locally conducted by the Training unit of the HEB before they were appointed as HEOs. The majority of them in due course were provided with the opportunity to follow a recognized postgraduate Diploma course in Health Education abroad with WHO assistance, the total cadre strength of the Health Education Officers was increased from around 25 to 45.

The next major development in the field was the further strengthening of the training capacity initiated by the HEB in partnership with the Postgraduate Institute of Medicine in Colombo University with WHO assistance, leading to the Master’s Degree in Science (Health Education).

These re-organizational efforts led to considerable improvement in the health education services throughout the country.