The way health education is approached when we are younger sets the stage for how we execute healthy habits later in life, which is why it’s so important to expose children to various health topics in school.
Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series of blog posts written by Human Health students in the Health 1,2,3,4 program’s Health 497 course – Community Health Education Strategies. To see an overview of the program and this series, please read this post.
By Imani Morrison
Physical education and the various other academic subjects that are taught in public schools often overshadow the importance of health education. As I look back to my early education years, there was always more focus on physical education throughout the elementary school years and it was not until middle school that health education became its own separate class.
“Healthy kids learn better, which can result in improvements in Georgia’s health and educational outcomes”
– Georgia Department of Public Health
A comprehensive health education program that equally focuses on health education and physical education is crucial for children during early childhood and throughout adolescents. School-based health education plays a pivotal role in reducing adolescent health risks. Children as young as two years old can benefit from the basics of health knowledge, but through my community teaching experience at King Middle School, I see clearly now that middle childhood is the developmental period where children may benefit the most from health education as this is the stage of life where we start to gain more independence and responsibility. Consequently, concepts such as health and well-being start to become more important and can be difficult to navigate when we lack the proper knowledge and skills.
“Health education helps adolescents acquire practical health knowledge, while strengthening their attitudes towards health and allowing them to practice the skills needed to adopt and maintain healthy behaviors throughout their lives”
– Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Our lessons this year had to be crafted for a virtual setting, but nonetheless we were still able to promote health amongst the students through active dialogue and activities. For example, our nutrition lesson provided a great demonstration of how students benefited from our presence. This lesson focused on the components that make up a healthy diet and one of the activities required students to choose food emojis that represented what they thought when they heard the term “nutrition.” The majority of the students chose a variety of fruits and vegetables, while one student chose fast food emojis like hamburger, pizza, and fries. I was excited that this student chose these emojis as these types of quick, tastebud-pleasing foods are commonly preferred by children of this age, oftentimes making up a substantial portion of their diet.
This lesson and activity allowed the students to give us their opinion on why they deemed these types of foods to be healthy or unhealthy. Once we heard their thoughts, we were able to have a meaningful conversation about a plethora of concepts such as how processed foods can be low in nutrients, how our bodies need nutritious foods to function properly, the importance of moderation and variety in the diet, and what an ideal healthy plate looks like.
Throughout my four years at Emory, I have learned two things as it relates to health that will stay with me forever. The first thing is that health looks different for everyone, but it is something we all share. The second thing is the importance of spreading my health and nutrition knowledge with others. This opportunity to collaborate with the Health 1,2,3,4 program, King Middle School, and my fellow Emory classmates has allowed me to develop a deeper understanding of both concepts. I not only got to build a relationship with those in the community, but I was able to broaden the health knowledge and skills of the future generation through the translation of my own knowledge and skills.
- School health. Georgia Department of Public Health. (n.d.). Retrieved April 21, 2022, from https://dph.georgia.gov/chronic-disease-prevention/school-health
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, March 25). Health Education in Schools. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved April 21, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/health-education/index.htm#:~:text=School%2Dbased%20health%20education%20helps,healthy%20behaviors%20throughout%20their%20lives.