Health education is a planned, sequential, pre K-12 curriculum and program that addresses the physical, mental and emotional, and social dimensions of health. The activities of the curriculum and program are integrated into the daily life of the students and designed to motivate and assist students to maintain and improve their health, prevent disease and reduce health-related risk behaviors. It allows students to develop and demonstrate increasingly sophisticated health-related knowledge, attitudes, skills, and practices. The curriculum and program include a variety of topics such as personal health, family health, community health, consumer health, environmental health, family living, mental and emotional health, injury prevention and safety, CPR, nutrition, prevention and control of disease and substance use and abuse. Qualified professionals such as health educators, teachers, school counselors, school health nurses, registered dietitians, and community health care professionals provide health education.
Key Elements of a Comprehensive Health Education Program*
Lifetime Wellness is a holistic approach to health and physical education in Tennessee high schools. The course addresses Nutrition, Substance Use and Abuse, Mental Health, Human Growth and Development, First Aid and Safety, and Personal Fitness and Related Skills. Each content area is addressed in a classroom setting while allowing opportunity to explore how one content area affects and is affected by other content areas. Students participate in cooperative learning instructional methods and physical activities that can be practiced throughout a person’s lifespan. Instruction emphasizes prevention as well as intervention with regard to the health practices of students.
The following are key elements of comprehensive health education, which itself are part of an overall coordinated school health program:
A documented, planned, and sequential program of health instruction for students in grades kindergarten through twelve.
A curriculum that addresses and integrates education about a range of categorical health problems and issues at developmentally appropriate ages.
Activities that help young people develop the skills they need to avoid: tobacco use; dietary patterns that contribute to disease; sedentary lifestyle; sexual behaviors that result in HIV infection, other STDs and unintended pregnancy; alcohol and other drug use; and behaviors that result in unintentional and intentional injuries.
Instruction provided for a prescribed amount of time at each grade level.
Management and coordination by an education professional trained to implement the program.
Instruction from teachers who are trained to teach the subject.
Involvement of parents, health professionals, and other concerned community members.
Periodic evaluation, updating, and improvement.
*Source: CDC, Coordinated School Health Program, www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/about/
Health services are provided and/or supervised by school health nurses to appraise, protect, and promote the health of students. These services include assessment, planning, coordination of services and direct care for all children, including those with special health care needs. Health services are designed and coordinated with community health care professionals to ensure early intervention, access and referral to primary health care services; foster appropriate use of primary health care services; prevent and control communicable disease and other health problems; provide emergency care for student and staff illness or injury; provide daily and continuous services for children with special health care needs; promote and provide optimum sanitary conditions for a safe school facility and school environment; and provide educational and counseling opportunities for promoting and maintaining individual, family and community health. Qualified professionals such as school health nurses, physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, dentists, health educators, registered dietitians, school counselors, and allied health personnel including speech therapists and occupational or physical therapists provide these services.
Nutrition services assure access to a variety of nutritious, affordable and appealing meals in school that accommodate the health and nutrition needs of all students. School nutrition programs reflect the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans and other criteria to meet the complete nutrition needs of students.
Each school's nutrition program also offers a learning laboratory for classroom nutrition and health education that helps students develop skills and habits in selecting nutritionally appropriate foods, and serves as a resource and link with nutrition-related community services and educational programs. Qualified professionals such as experienced, knowledgeable school food supervisors and registered dietitians provide these services.
Physical education is a planned, sequential pre-k -12 curriculum program that follows national standards in providing developmentally appropriate, cognitive content and learning experiences in a variety of physical activity areas such as basic movement skills; physical fitness; rhythm and dance; cooperative games; team, dual, and individual sports; tumbling and gymnastics; and aquatics. Quality physical education promotes, through a variety of planned individual and cooperative physical activities and fitness assessments, each student's optimum physical, mental, emotional and social development; and provides fitness activities and sports that all students, including students with special needs, can enjoy and pursue throughout their lives. Qualified professionals such as physical education teachers and physical activity specialists provide physical education and related fitness activities.
The Healthy School Environment component relates to the quality of the physical and aesthetic surroundings; the psychosocial climate, safety, and culture of the school; the school safety and emergency plans; and the periodic review and testing of the factors and conditions that influence the environment.
Factors and conditions that influence the quality of the physical environment include the school building and the area surrounding it; transportation services; any biological or chemical agents inside and outside the school facilities that are detrimental to health; and physical conditions such as temperature, noise, lighting, air quality and potential health and safety hazards.
The quality of the psychological environment includes the physical, emotional and social conditions that affect the safety and well being of students and staff. Qualified staff such as facilities and transportation supervisors, principals, school and community counselors, social workers, psychologists, school health nurses, health educators, and school safety officers assess and plan for these factors and conditions in the school environment.
School Counseling, Psychological, and Social Services
Counseling, mental health, and social services are provided to assess and improve the mental, emotional, and social health of every student. All students receive these services, including developmental classroom guidance activities and preventative educational programs, in an effort to enhance and promote academic, personal, and social growth. Students who may have special needs are served through the administration and interpretation of psychometric and psychoeducational tests, observational assessments, individual and group counseling sessions, crisis intervention for emergency mental health needs, family/home consultation, and/or referrals to outside community-based agencies when appropriate. The professional skills of counselors, psychologists, and social workers, along with school health nurses, are utilized to provide coordinated "wrap around" services that contribute to the mental, emotional, and social health of students, their families and the school environment. Qualified professionals such as school and community counselors, school and community psychologists, school health nurses, social workers, and qualified staff from community agencies provide these services.
Involvement of students, parents, community representatives, health specialists, and volunteers in schools provides an integrated approach for enhancing the health and well being of students both at school and in the community. School health advisory councils, coalitions, and broadly-based constituencies for school health can build support for school health programs. School administrators, teachers, and school health staff in all components actively solicit family involvement and engage community resources, expertise, and services to respond effectively to the health-related needs of students and families. Qualified professionals such as principals, teachers, and school health staff, along with students, parents and volunteers, provide leadership in this area.
Teachers and other school employees are charged with educating and caring for one of our most precious assets – our students. Therefore, it is imperative that school employees are supported in their efforts to stay healthy and active so that they can do their job most effectively. Wellness opportunities such as health assessments, health education and physical fitness activities are provided to all school staff, including the administrators, teachers and support personnel, to improve their health status. These opportunities encourage staff to pursue a healthy lifestyle that contributes to their improved health status, improved morale, and greater personal commitment to the overall coordinated school health program. This personal commitment often transfers into greater commitment to the health of students and serving as positive role models. Health promotion activities conducted on-site improve productivity, decrease absenteeism, and reduce health insurance costs. Qualified professionals such as principals, supervisors, health educators, school health nurses and school personnel/human resources directors provide leadership in this area.