Sunday, February 19, 2012

Cultivating Compassion: A Model for Adolescent Health Education


Here's the abstract:


Purpose An outdoor non-frontal course for adolescents was designed and implemented to impart basic skills and knowledge in the areas of traditional medicine, medicinal plants and interpersonal communication. Course goals included increased awareness of (1) the body in health and disease, (2) plants as medicine and food as medicine, (3) the importance of dosage, (4) the relationship between emotions and the body, (5) the role of nature and the environment in relation to health and disease, as well as (6) enhanced self-esteem through a positive group experience, (7) empowerment through acquisition of basic healing skills, (8) interpersonal communication skills and guided imagery.  

Methods During 3 consecutive semesters, 3 heterogeneous groups of 25-27 adolescents, ages 12-15, met in the wadi behind the school for 90 minutes each week, for a semester-long science elective at the Reali Haivri School, Haifa, Israel (January 2004-June 2005). The course was led as a facilitated group. Activities included Mesoamerican healing rituals, medicinal plant preparations, Chinese medicine, guided imagery, art, and interpersonal communication games.   

Results Qualitative assessment was based on student responses, course popularity, the author’s participant observation and documentation. The course increased physical and emotional self-awareness, facilitated a constructive group process, imparted basic skills for preventive health care, enhanced appreciation of nature, of traditional medicine and medicinal plants, and otherwise met the stated goals.  

Conclusions The course fills a lacuna in adolescent preventive health education. The course has yet to be assessed quantitatively and applied in diverse cultural settings, for which it is expected to be well suited.

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This presentation was presented orally at two international conferences.

Photos by Janna Weiss, unless otherwise indicated. I have not been able to trace origins/owners for the downloaded images. I would appreciate receiving permission for their use and to be able to acknowledge their creators. Thank you.

Feel free to borrow ideas. Acknowledgement is always appreciated.

All individuals in the photos are now over 18 years of age. 

May all beings be happy!

Additional comments

I was inspired to begin teaching this course after treating a 49 year old woman who suffered migraine headaches since puberty, which only intensified at menopause. Had she been treated with traditional medicine at puberty, she most likely would have been spared a great deal of suffering. Her 18 year old daughter suffered primarily from improper and inadequate nutrition due to lack of knowledge. I helped set her on a good course that would serve her for life. I would also like to mention that my son's nursery school had a great nutrition course for kids with a similar concept of providing wise life skills.

The Chatino woman being treated gave her explicit permission to show her image publicly. Chatino women traditionally, historically, wore only beads on their upper body. In my experience and to my understanding, breasts do not have a sexual connotation for the Chatino people, and are shown publicly when nursing, sometimes after nursing and during bathing in rivers. Nudity or partial nudity is perfectly acceptable in many human societies, mainly in tropical or warm regions where clothing may be cumbersome and impractical. 

The course was accompanied by occasional handouts, for example, showing point locations. We examined our own tongues with small cosmetic mirrors. Conflicts that arose between the kids were incorporated into the course, for practicing and modeling constructive conflict resolution skills. On rare days of inclement weather, we moved indoors for a slide show on Chinese and/or Chatino (Oaxaca, Mexico) medicine.