Academic journal article American Journal of Health Education

Using Focus Group Research to Assess Health Education Needs of Pre-Service and In-Service Teachers

Academic journal article American Journal of Health Education

Using Focus Group Research to Assess Health Education Needs of Pre-Service and In-Service Teachers

Article excerpt


Background: Few studies have been conducted in Canada to investigate the roles, actions and beliefs of health teachers in school health programs. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to explore health education teaching and assess related needs among pre-service and in-service teachers in a British Columbia K-12 school system, and to elicit conclusions regarding how to improve health through schools. Methods: K-12 teachers from the participating school district (N = 16) and pre-service teachers from the participating university (N = 14) participated in four focus groups. Results: Guided by the ecological model, seven themes were identified and categorized: (1) Intrapersonal Level (teaching strategies; knowledge/skills; comfort); (2) Interpersonal Level (teaching barriers); and O) Community Level (health curricula; health programs; role of school). Discussion: Seven themes highlight the issues of school health programs from practitioners' perspectives, which also correspond with five sources of problems of school health programs classified by the WHO Expert Committee. This study reinforced the need for initial development of health educator roles and competencies to guide actions in school health improvement. Translation to Health Education Practice: The identified sources of problems illustrate the potential role that a health-promoting school approach plays to build school-community connectedness.


Recognizing the link between health and learning, the World Health Organization's Global School Health Initiative (1) has catalyzed a movement towards creating health-promoting schools. Although definitions vary among countries, a health-promoting school can be characterized as a school constantly strengthening its capacity as a healthy setting for living, learning and working. Many studies report the importance of school health education programs in promoting health for students and in preventing the adoption of many high-risk behaviours. (2-4) Whereas, commitment by practicing teachers is a key cornerstone to promote health education through schools, it has also been suggested that policy development for in-service training and involvement by parents be implemented? Furthermore, teacher preparation programs can influence teachers' knowledge and perceptions about the importance of health education, their level of comfort teaching health, as well as their intentions to teach health. (6)

Creating Health through the School Setting

The Ottawa Charter (7) states:

   Health is created and lived by people
   within the settings of their everyday life;
   where they learn, work, play and love.
   Health is created by caring for oneself and
   others, by being able to make decisions
   and have control over one's life.

Approximately 60% of Canadians (ages 16 and older) lack the capacity to obtain, understand and act upon health information and services to make appropriate health decisions on their own. (8) With Canadian schools currently addressing one-third of the population (children and youth) across the nation, (9) they are a potential forum to reach a large number of individuals over an extended period of time. Despite good intentions by K-12 schools to reach children and youth health and the associated risk factors, schools and their curricula continue to tackle issues utilizing a traditional crisis-response approach: "Reactive practice is epitomized by responses to a perceived problem or crisis." (10)(321) Often, this type of health education involves short-term campaigns and does not allow for evidence-based planning or a skills-based scope and sequence within the curricula.

Health Promoting Schools (HPS): A mechanism for prevention. An understanding by stakeholders of the inter-related framework of health-promoting schools (also known as coordinated school health programs) and its contribution to school health promotion is critical. …

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