Gieve Draper
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My Health Philosophy


I believe that health education is very important in primary school as it sets up habits for children into adulthood. If a child belonged to a lower class family that weren't aware of a certain health issue, then it is the child who can teach their family and get everyone involved. The socio-ecological perspective shows that health education is not based on the individual.

  • First there are many issues that relate to just the student such as self-worth and making own decisions.
  • Secondly there are issues that involve other people such as understanding interpersonal skills to relationships.
  • Thirdly learning values and attitudes that support the enhancement of mental health for society is an example that shows how society is involved.

Tasker states that a socio-ecological perspective “requires balance and integration between individual and societal considerations. It encourages self reflection, critical thinking, and critical action.” I believe that health education is for health, not just about health. Health education must promote and facilitate voluntary application of health knowledge to health-enhancing actions in daily life. This is based on the premise that if present health knowledge were applied in daily living, then many more individuals within our society, and our society as a whole, would enjoy the benefits of better health.

Health promotion has links with the socio-ecological perspective because it needs involvement and action of people from the wider school community. These people include the children themselves, parents or caregivers and other community members such as business owners (for example, the local fruit barn donating apples for “The Big Crunch”). Health promotion is about encouraging children to be empowered and to take action in their own environment as well as improving their own well-being. Many factors impact on the overall health of groups or individuals. These "determinants of health" interact with each other and with others to influence health. For example, the social and physical environments in which we live influence the way we behave. In turn, the way we feel and behave affects our biology and our overall health. Key determinants of children’s health, or factors that affect children’s health could be categorised as: social, physical, mental, spiritual (hauora), economic environment; individual capacity, coping skills and personal health practices and so on.

All these issues are important in education because I believe it is what makes New Zealand health education unique. Other countries don't have the Maori philosophy of hauora and it is this which adds to New Zealand diverse culture. Health education is important because it is more than an educational goal. A healthy living environment is essential

throughout school, not just health lessons. The school, as a living environment, provides many opportunities for the student to apply health knowledge and skills at home and in the community. Health in general is important in children's health issues in New Zealand because it promotes a healthy lifestyle. Students come from many different backgrounds and some parents or caregivers are more ignorant about health issues than others. I remember at primary school, after learning how important it is to brush your teeth, I would remind mum and dad to brush their teeth 3 times a day constantly. Health isn't just about knowing about it, it is applying it too.

A classroom needs physical, emotional and social aspects of a classroom climate so it can positively support a comprehensive health program. It is good to begin thinking about our classroom experiences so we can reflect how these spaces made us feel and the effect they had on our thinking and behaviour. From Year 4 all my classrooms had couches with cushions. This made me feel comfortable especially when we had silent reading time or when the teacher was reading a book. The couches were also used as a reward system and we felt privileged and good sitting on them. There were no negative feelings towards the couches at everyone had a go sitting on them. We live in a society that values levels of high stimulation. Teachers need to think how to best facilitate these skills by the environments they offer. In an attempt to be stimulating, some classrooms can go overboard on displays and materials that can be over stimulating and confusing to the child.

Physically children need space to move. The use of space is vital in flexibility and ease of movement. It is very important that children don't feel squashed and uncomfortable. We need to think how we feel if we're squashed in an elevator or how it feels when someone invades your space when sitting next to someone in an aeroplane. Good air ventilation and lighting can make a difference in a classroom. It is harder for a student or teacher to work in when it is 'stuffy' or when it is too light or dark. Uncluttered space and well placed furniture will assist in keeping the classroom physically healthy too. When the teacher/school provides a caring and supportive environment, students feel mentally and socially healthy so they can contribute to the classroom, the school and community life. The teacher should respond to the student's needs in a sensitive manner. Members of the school community need to ensure that practices, policies, and structures of the school agree with the aims and achievements of the health curriculum. The teacher should use a style that reinforce the development of a sense of personal and social responsibility. Mutual respect, trust and positive attitudes need to be developed and the teachers need to provide experiences for this. As schools in New Zealand are becoming more multi-cultural teachers need to be aware of other culture's customs and beliefs. If a teacher doesn't meet the individual needs of a foreign student, they could feel embarrassed, alienation, excluded and even upset the parents.

The school, in assuming its unique responsibilities for providing health education, must consider the age, maturity and needs of individual children from a wide variety of home backgrounds. It is crucial that parents, caregivers and the community are informed. For example, parents from a strong religious background might not want their daughter learning about sexuality education. Failure of informing the parents could cause of trouble for the teacher and the school. South Korean, Japanese and Chinese educators say, “In our culture it is impolite to say one can do well, even if one thinks so” Beane(1991). This means for some Asian children, it is extremely hard to them to say what the think they do well at. It is important that teacher and the school has positive relationships with the parents and caregivers. If consultation is made with the school, parents, and staff it will assist in the development of related school policies and can obtain feedback from the parents. It will also provide opportunities for students, teachers, parents and caregivers to enhance student's learning. Such consultation could be in the form of meetings with the parents and caregivers, updates in newsletters or permission slips being sent home. When I was in Form 1 the school sent permission slips home to get the parents and caregivers approval to teach puberty lessons. One girl's parents didn't allow her to learn it because the parents wanted to teach her themselves. She was of New Zealand European decent which proves a point that just because a family is kiwi, it doesn't mean that they agree on certain health issues as other people of the same decent.
Food and nutrition has particular important in school primary education because it is related closely to other aspects of health such as exercise and home economics (cooking). Food, nutrition and exercise are three terms that are commonly used together. I remember in cooking (at 'manual') we learnt lots about nutrition and theory as well as learning how to cook snacks and meals. I remember we learned about how important eating breakfast is and later on in the year the whole senior school ate breakfast together in the hall. It is important in school health education because good eating habits are formed in childhood and maintained in adult life. If a child is home alone after school, it is the child's responsibility to decide what he/she will eat. I remember many activities we did as part of food and nutrition at primary school. We made a food triangle out of pictures from magazine, the 'Big Crunch' and shared lunches. Food and nutrition relates very closely to a couple of major health issues in New Zealand society such as obesity and diabetes. The number of overweight and obese children is rising more every year and reaching epidemic numbers, following other western countries' trends. It is mainly because of poor diets due to large fat intakes and not enough exercise to burn it off. Type 2 diabetes is also at epidemic proportions, driven mainly by demographic trends and the increasing prevalence of overweight obesity, accounting for about a third of the overall increase in diabetes (Ministry of Health, 2002). The only way to slow the epidemic down is to improve nutrition and increase physical activity which is why food and nutrition is so important in the health curriculum.

Beane, J.A. (1991). Sorting out the Self-Esteem Controversy. Educational Leadership, 49 (1)
Tasker, G. (1998). Total Well being: Health education for the new millennium. Set: Research Information for Teachers (June 2000). Food and Nutrition Centre (March 2002). Diabetes in New Zealand. Ministry of Health

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