A Sharper Image for School Health Education: Hawaii's "Seven by Seven" Curriculum Focus. (Commentaries)

Article excerpt

School health educators use a variety of lists to define and describe our profession and the work we do. For example, we might include the following in our professional discussions:

* Ten health education concepts or content areas, (1)

* Nine health education assessment areas, (2)

* Eight components of a coordinated school health program, (3)

* Seven national health education standards, (4)

* Six priority adolescent health-risk behaviors, (5)

* Five dimensions of health, (6)

* Four aspects of health, (7)

* Three components of a traditional school health program. (8)

As health educators, we feel comfortable with our shared history--we speak the same language. However, to those outside the field, these lists may appear one-dimensional and disconnected. Students, parents, educators in other subject areas, administrators, and community members nay be bewildered by this means of exchanging ideas and left wondering precisely what school-based efforts are designed to accomplish.

To provide a clearer picture of school health education in Hawaii, the Partnership for Standards-Based School Health Education (9) aligned seven Hawaii Health Education Standards with seven risk/content areas to serve as the focus for the school health education curriculum (Figure 1). This "seven by seven" focus provides a much-needed "sharper image" for health education in the state.



In 1999, the Hawaii State Department of Education (DOE) revised its Hawaii Content and Performance Standards, adding health education as a new content area. (10) The Hawaii Health Education Standards reflect the National Health Education Standards, (4) developed in 1995. Also in 1999, the American Cancer Society, Hawaii Pacific, Inc., joined with the Hawaii Department of Education, Hawaii Department of Health, University of Hawaii College of Education, and other public and private partners to initiate the Hawaii Partnership for Standards-Based School Health Education to support implementation and assessment of the new standards. (9)

During the past three years, the partnership has institutionalized an annual professional development plan for health education including spring workshops, summer institutes, and fall conferences for K-12 educators throughout the state. In 2000, the partnership also began collaboration with the Hawaii Department of Health's new Healthy Hawaii Initiative (HHI), funded with tobacco settlement dollars, to support coordinated school health pilot sites across Hawaii.

The first two years of standards-based professional development efforts in Hawaii revealed that educators were overwhelmed by the lists and topics they encountered in professional publications and in commercial health education textbooks. To echo a teacher who participated in the 1994 School Health Policies and Programs Study, "The book has 28 units and you cannot teach this course in one semester." (11) With new statewide attention directed toward health education, the partnership recognized the need to more clearly define the school health curriculum in terms that everyone could understand.


The partnership agreed that the Hawaii Health Education Standards would comprise the initial skills-based focus for the curriculum. The more difficult deliberations centered on selecting the content areas or health-risk behaviors that would provide the context for teaching health skills. The partnership worked with three of the previously cited lists: 1) 10 content areas identified in the School Health Education Study; (1) 2) six adolescent health-risk behaviors identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; (5) and 3) nine assessment areas identified in the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) State Collaborative of Assessment and Student Standards (SCASS) Health Education Assessment Framework. …