Health Education: Results from the School Health Policies and Programs Study 2006

By Kann, Laura; Telljohann, Susan K. et al. | Journal of School Health, October 2007 | Go to article overview

Health Education: Results from the School Health Policies and Programs Study 2006


Kann, Laura, Telljohann, Susan K., Wooley, Susan F., Journal of School Health


School health education has been defined in various, though similar ways. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines health education as: "A planned, sequential, K-12 curriculum that addresses the physical, mental, emotional, and social dimensions of health. The curriculum is designed to motivate and assist students to maintain and improve their health, prevent disease, and reduce health-related risk behaviors. It allows students to develop and demonstrate increasingly sophisticated health-related knowledge, attitudes, skills, and practices. The comprehensive health education curriculum includes a variety of topics such as personal health, family health, community health, consumer health, environmental health, sexuality education, mental and emotional health, injury prevention and safety, nutrition, prevention and control of disease, and substance use and abuse. Qualified, trained teachers provide health education." (1,2)

In 2002, the 2000 Joint Committee on Health Education Terminology defined health education as "the development, delivery, and evaluation of planned, sequential, and developmentally appropriate instruction, learning experiences, and other activities designed to protect, promote, and enhance the health literacy, attitudes, skills, and well-being of students, pre-kindergarten through grade 12." (3)

Regardless of the exact definition, reviews of effective programs and curricula and input from experts in the field of health education have identified the following characteristics of effective health education: (4-14)

* focuses on specific behavioral outcomes

* is research based and theory driven

* addresses individual values and group norms that support health-enhancing behaviors

* focuses on increasing the personal perception of risk and harmfulness of engaging in specific health-risk behaviors, as well as reinforcing protective factors

* addresses social pressures and influences

* builds personal competence, social competence, and self-efficacy by addressing skills

* provides functional health knowledge that is basic, accurate, and directly contributes to health-promoting decisions and behaviors

* uses strategies designed to personalize information and engage students

* provides age-appropriate and developmentally appropriate information, learning strategies, teaching methods, and materials

* incorporates learning strategies, teaching methods, and materials that are culturally inclusive

* provides adequate time for instruction and learning

* provides opportunities to reinforce skills and positive health behaviors

* provides opportunities to make positive connections with influential persons

* includes teacher information and plans for professional development and training that enhances effectiveness of instruction and student learning.

The National Health Education Standards provide a framework for designing or selecting health education curricula and allocating instructional resources, as well as providing a basis for the assessment of student achievement. The National Health Education Standards also offer students, families, and communities concrete expectations for health education. The Joint Committee on National Health Education Standards released the first set of standards in 1995. (15) The National Health Education Standards Review and Revision Panel released the following updated set of 8 standards in 2007: (16)

1. Students will comprehend concepts related to health promotion and disease prevention to enhance health.

2. Students will analyze the influence of family, peers, culture, media, technology, and other factors on health behaviors.

3. Students will demonstrate the ability to access valid information and products and services to enhance health.

4. Students will demonstrate the ability to use interpersonal communication skills to enhance health and avoid or reduce health risks.

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