Professional Preparation of Elementary Teachers in Ohio: Status of K-6 Health Education

By Ubbes, Valerie A.; Cottrell, Randall R. et al. | Journal of School Health, January 1999 | Go to article overview

Professional Preparation of Elementary Teachers in Ohio: Status of K-6 Health Education


Ubbes, Valerie A., Cottrell, Randall R., Ausherman, Judith A., Black, Jill M., Wilson, Patti, Gill, Carol, Snider, Jane, Journal of School Health


Schools play an important role in health promotion and disease prevention by ensuring that children and adolescents receive adequate health instruction and services. Because many of the nation's young people receive minimal health instruction during their developmental years, they often lack the personal and social skills for maintaining and sustaining a healthful lifestyle into adolescence and adulthood. Effective health education should be taught more frequently, especially in elementary schools, where the foundation for achieving and maintaining good health must be established. A Carnegie Foundation report[1] stated, "No knowledge is more crucial than knowledge about health. Without it, no other life goal can be successfully achieved." The statement applies to elementary children and their teachers. Without adequate knowledge of health, elementary teachers may not fully understand the relationship between education and health, and more importantly, how to provide developmentally appropriate instruction for children of different ages and abilities. In tandem with parents,[2] classroom teachers create the foundation for development of health knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors among elementary children.

Though elementary teachers often do not incorporate health instruction in a systematic way in schools, many report a need for health education.[3] Some investigators[4,5] believe that teacher preparation coursework should increase feelings of preparedness and establish comfort levels for teaching a comprehensive health curricula. Preparing preservice teachers with adequate coursework before they enter schools to teach is a critical need. The extent of this coursework often varies from nothing to one or more courses according to studies conducted in Texas, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and West Virginia.[6-10] Other investigators[11-13] have shared models for developing a health course for elementary education majors.

Universities have the major responsibility for the professional preparation of elementary teachers and secondary health education specialists. The Opportunity-to-Learn Standards for Teacher Preparation Institutions[1] includes 12 tasks for preparing children and youth to achieve health literacy through professional development incentives. The Ohio Action Plan for Comprehensive School Health Education[14] advocates integrating health promotion programs into the professional preparation of all educators. The National Action Plan for Comprehensive School Health Education from the American Cancer Society[15] offers four recommendations for professional preparation and practice. Innovative practices in comprehensive health education programs for elementary schools also has been recommended.[16]

The American Association for Health Education, formerly the Association for the Advancement of Health Education (AAHE), in collaboration with the American School Health Association (ASHA), developed standards for preservice preparation of elementary teachers, K-6.[17] Unfortunately, only three states require health education certification for elementary teachers.[18,19] Health education certification occurs more commonly at the secondary level (7-12) than at the elementary level. According to CDC's School Health Policies and Programs Study (SHHPS),[19] 67% of states required certification for secondary health teachers.

To determine the professional preparation of Ohio elementary teachers to teach health education, the Ohio Association of University Health Educators (OAUHE) conducted a survey of faculty at Ohio colleges and universities in fall 1997. OAUHE is an organization comprised of health education faculty members from Ohio colleges and universities who are interested in promoting school and community health education throughout the state. Membership in OAUHE is not intended to take the place of membership in Ohio AAHPERD, SOPHE, or APHA chapters. Rather, OAUHE works with these associations and the Ohio Dept. …

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