Are Health Education and Promotion in Schools Effective?
Health education is a growing program in many schools, but it isn’t found in all. It has changed the role of the school nurse to one of an educator and is designed to promote healthy practices and well-being in children from kindergarten through high school. The question many ask is if it’s sustainable and effective.
What is Health Promotion?
A school that promotes health in an organized fashion is one that focuses on teaching students to make healthy decisions and educating them about health. They encourage other professionals to support the program in various ways. These programs also work to create a healthy environment at school. The education doesn’t stop within the school walls; it continues out into the communities and within families to encourage everyone to be more aware of healthy choices.
Nationally, the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System or YRBSS has created annual reports that show the results of monitoring high schools for six types of behaviors that lead to illness and death among youth. These behaviors include the following:
- Alcohol and drug use
- Tobacco use
- Sexual behaviors
- Unhealthy diets
- Inadequate physical activity
- Behaviors that lead to accidental injuries or violence
This program measures obesity rates among youth and features a school survey, which is conducted by various state and local agencies.
This initiative is part of the World Health Organization Global School Health Initiative. The goal is to educate and promote health at every level from local to international. It includes community involvement, school curriculum, and health policies within the school. In addition, the school physical and social environments play a key role in helping young people make positive changes. Access to school health services is another essential component of the program, especially for those young people who don’t go to doctors or see medical staff on their own.
Why Health Promotion is Beneficial to Students
Promotion programs centered on health provide education to students to help them learn how to make good decisions regarding their own health. These programs deal with mental and emotional health as well as physical health. It gives them motivation to make changes to improve their health and to maintain good health by preventing diseases and lessening risky behaviors.
These programs increase students’ knowledge of health-related issues, which can change their attitudes about certain behaviors. In addition, the professionals reach out to families and communities to help them support positive changes and encourage students to pay more attention to health and making good decisions.
Health promotion improves the quality of students’ lives by reducing medical issues that occur as a result of unhealthy habits and poor choices. They also feel good about themselves as they make changes to enhance their lives, such as increasing physical activity, losing weight and eating healthy foods. The students have more energy and they can perform better in school and other activities.
When students follow the guidelines and recommendations made in these programs, they often have better self-esteem. They are focused on taking care of themselves because they feel they are valuable. This attitude can help them deal with other situations, such as bullying. These programs empower young people to make sound decisions about their own health and behaviors while providing the information they need to do so.
How to Make Health Education More Effective
For health promotion programs to be effective, they must receive the support of the school, families and the community. The nurses must be trained and equipped to provide the education and resources the students need.
One of the first considerations is the location of the school nurse’s office and the ease of access to her. She may be answering students’ questions or providing counseling outside of regular program hours. It’s also necessary to remove any barriers that can keep children from going to the school nurse when they need help. These may include privacy, availability, and ease of access. Students need to feel comfortable with the nurse, and they need to understand what the person does and what services are provided.
A study on the program shows that students felt their health was improved because they visited the nurse. The majority of students surveyed said they were either likely or very likely to follow the advice the nurse provided. Positive experiences with the nurse led to positive feelings about the results.
Factors that impact the effectiveness of these programs include the ability to focus on health promotion, teamwork with other professionals and confidentiality of student information. One of the complexities of the project is the need for confidentiality for the student while providing a teamwork approach with teachers and other school staff.
Teachers can promote the program through their classes, ensuring the students are aware of the school nurse and the services she provides. For this to happen, more education must be given to the teachers to ensure they understand the program and its benefits.
Upper-level management in schools also need to understand health promotion, so they can advocate for it to the board and to others and ensure it continues to be part of the school’s program. To ensure long-term sustainability, everyone involved in the program must support it.
Health promotion programs benefit the students, their families and the communities in which they live. As more people learn about what they do, they will advocate for these programs to be added or maintained in their schools for a healthier world.
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Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS). (2015). http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/index.htm
What is a health promoting school? http://www.who.int/school_youth_health/gshi/hps/en/
What is Health Promotion & Behavior? https://www.publichealth.uga.edu/hpb/what-health-promotion-behavior