March 27, 2023

Research Fellow Tyler G. James Receives Writing Award from the Foundation for the Advancement of Health Education

He and his co-authors argue for a more philosophically-grounded skill set to understand and address health inequities and social determinants of health.

Tyler G. James, Ph.D., MCHES, post-doctoral research fellow in the Department of Family Medicine, has received the Ann E. Nolte Writing Award from the Foundation for the Advancement of Health Education for his paper titled, “Competency Focused Versus Philosophically Grounded Health Promotion Practice: Impacts on Innovation and Addressing Health Inequities.”

Tyler G. James, Ph.D., MCHES

The Ann E. Nolte Writing Award recognizes authors or organizations that make a significant contribution to the profession of health education and promotion through a publication focused on the future of health education and health promotion, philosophical/ethical issues, or history relevant to the profession.

“My co-authors and I are absolutely thrilled to receive this award,” James said. “As we continue to explore the intersections of pedagogy and health, I am optimistic that our work will contribute to the creation of more just and equitable societies and health systems for all."

The paper, which was published in the in the journal Perspectives on Pedagogy in 2022, explores the impact of a paradigm shift in the training of future health promotion and health education professionals, moving from an emphasis on competencies to one that also includes philosophy.

By focusing on philosophy, professionals in these fields can better understand the structural factors that lead to health disparities and develop strategies to address them. For instance, they can explore how policies and practices, such as housing policies, access to healthy foods, and social safety nets, impact health outcomes. With this understanding, they can design health promotion programs that address the root causes of health disparities.

Ethical considerations are particularly important in healthcare, where individuals are placed into settings with limited autonomy and therefore rely on healthcare professionals to provide them with accurate information and support. By prioritizing ethical considerations in health education and promotion, professionals can ensure that their work is guided by principles such as non-maleficence, beneficence and autonomy, while also considering the impact of health education on a community

The authors recommend revising curricula to introduce students and professionals to the variety of philosophical paradigms and ethical frameworks relevant to health education and promotion. They also argue that students should learn to identify and critique paradigms and systems of power and oppression, which influence health education and promotion practice.

Overall, the authors argue that the shift to a philosophy-grounded approach in pre-professional programs for health education and promotion can lead to a more holistic, equitable and effective practice.

“Understanding their own philosophical assumptions and orientations and those of the people we are serving will help us to more effectively communicate as health education and promotion specialists,” the authors write.

Additional authors include Meagan K. Sullivan, MPH, CPH, and Julia R. Varnes, PhD, MPH, MCHES, both from the University of Florida, and Heather Henderson, EdD, of West Virginia University. The award was accepted by Varnes, representing the authorship team, at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Public Health Education in Atlanta, Georgia on March 23, 2023.

Article Citation: James, T. G., Sullivan, M. K., Henderson, H., & Varnes, J. R. (2022). Competency focused versus philosophically grounded health promotion practice: Impacts on innovation and addressing health inequities. Pedagogy in Health Promotion, 8(4), 246–250.