Order Your Copy of Power Loving
by Carol O’Donnell

Approach to teaching and analysis for sustainable development

Our approach to teaching and analysis for sustainable development is broadly sociological and also focused on teaching health promotion and related risk management principles for use in commercial, government, community or related geographic settings, with small or large levels of complexity. It seeks to prepare people to openly plan, undertake and evaluate competitively directed projects to promote health and to develop healthier environments. This self-preparation may be done alone with Google or with others, under the critical primary guidance of relevant international scientific and regulatory conventions, related definitions and other evidence, which must be well documented.

This is an applied teaching approach which ideally also welcomes many artistic and culturally creative as well as scientific approaches to communication.
Sociologists study human societies and interactions. (Three of the most famous were Durkheim, Marx and Weber). They study the social structures (organization), social processes (activities), and social relationships which make up the pattern of a particular social formation or society. Sociology may be closely related to other disciplines such as geography, history, economics, politics, cultural studies, anthropology and psychology.

Sociologists often try to establish the relationship between what happens to individuals, and the larger historical processes of cultural, economic, political or related environmental change which may explain their situation. The sociological imagination tries to understand how our personal socialization may distort our observations, so as to be more aware and fair in regard to any account of phenomena or events and recommendations for action aimed at solutions. Communication and/or collaboration with those groups and individuals most relevant to improving the general situation is usually a vital part of the evidence gathering and recommendation process related to any matter under consideration. Openness ideally improves learning and development for all involved. Protective privacy requirements are considered in a context where openness is highly valued for its benefits. Openness promotes education, accountability and appropriate cost cutting.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health holistically, as ‘a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’. This requires a wider perspective than the medical model of health. The medical gaze usually focuses on the individual body rather than its environment, and seeks to diagnose and find a cure for the physical symptoms of the presenting patient and group. A sociological or holistic health approach examines the influence of environmental, economic and social factors on the health of nations, social groups or individuals, in order to improve their general situation.

The aim of health promotion is attainment of population health. It is ideally focused on preventing illness, understanding its causes, evidence based practice, and community participation in decisions which affect health. The WHO Declaration of Alma-Ata stated that primary health care ‘involves, in addition to the health sector, all related sectors and aspects of community development, in particular agriculture, animal husbandry, food, industry, education, housing, public works, communications and other sectors; and demands the coordinated efforts of all those sectors’. It called for ‘a better use of the world’s resources, a considerable part of which is now spent on armaments and military conflicts’. It claimed a genuine policy of independence, peace détente and disarmament could and should release additional resources devoted to peaceful aims and in particular to the acceleration of social and economic development of which primary health care, as an essential part, should be allotted its proper share. Our educational and policy development aim is to help.

The sociological, health promotion and risk management approaches are all consistent. Risk management is familiar in many Australian workplaces as a result of occupational health and safety requirements. Risks to the health of workers, clients, surrounding communities and environments may arise as a result of production or related environmental factors such as poor land, air, water, housing or food quality, or as a result of natural disasters or related environmental degradation. Environmental risks to human health may also interact with personal life-style risks such as smoking, alcohol abuse, over-eating, too little exercise or unsafe sexual practices.

Risk management is defined as a logical and systematic method of identifying, analysing, assessing, treating, monitoring and communicating risks associated with any activity in a way that will enable, individuals, organizations and communities to minimize losses and maximize opportunities.
Risk management involves establishing the strategic and organisational context in order to identify and prioritise the health risks, which are inherent in the work and its environment. Strategies to treat the risks are then devised and monitored. The outcome of practice is then evaluated. Risk management may be undertaken with any community.

In order to undertake the risk management process a person must normally consult with relevant others and establish the work context for the undertaking. They then identify the risks, which appear to exist in that work context. The risks are analysed and prioritised in terms of their likely severity and frequency. Strategies to treat the risks are then devised, implemented and monitored. The outcome of these strategies is then evaluated. This process is broadly consistent with the basic requirements of quality management and environment management as they are outlined in international standards (ISO 9004.1 and ISO 14004).

There is ideally an ongoing interaction between planning and implementation. This process seeks to question any apparent dogma from more broadly scientific as well as closer individual perspectives, so as to obtain more evidence to help reduce related future problems. Processes are ideally open to provide room to deal with problems or flaws in original plans, to allow for different circumstances or concerns, and to gain greater commitment and understanding. Who are the ideal judges and who should be made accountable for decisions, are questions which are asked often.