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Massachusetts Comprehensive Health Curriculum Framework - October 1999

Guiding Principles


Comprehensive Health Education Teaches Students Fundamental Health Concepts And Skills That Foster Healthy Habits And Behaviors For The Individual And Others Through Sequential And Coordinated Teaching Of Health Education, Physical Education, And Family And Consumer Sciences Education At Each Grade Level, Prekindergarten Through Grade 12.

Comprehensive health education provides a foundation in public health, medical knowledge, and modes of inquiry into how individuals and societies acquire their health-related knowledge, and empowers students to change unhealthy attitudes and behaviors. Students learn factual information and develop skills for finding and evaluating information and resources, for making decisions, and for setting goals to promote their own health and the health of others. These others may include family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, etc. Physical education focuses on body dynamics, movement, physical fitness, competition, and teamwork. Family and Consumer Sciences education examines the concepts of personal living, family life, parenting, work, nutrition, and consumerism.

Health education, physical education, and family and consumer sciences education each contribute to comprehensive health education. Together they increase students' knowledge of health concepts, life management skills, and habits that can facilitate lifelong health for the individual and for others. To be most effective, health should be taught regularly, beginning with a student's entry into school and continuing through grade 12. A sequential curriculum introduces concepts and skills in the early grades and reinforces them with more detailed and complex information and skills in the later grades.


Comprehensive Health Education Teaches Students To Use Fundamental Health Concepts To Assess Risks, To Consider Potential Consequences, And To Make Health Enhancing Decisions.

Comprehensive health education equips students to assess risks in an informed manner in their everyday lives. Students learn how to identify and evaluate various types and degrees of health risk and become aware of specific behaviors that pose risks for themselves and others, now and in the future. Students learn how to determine the likely consequences of their actions and how to determine which information is needed to assess health risks and to make responsible decisions. Influences on personal health, including why people relapse into unhealthy conduct and behaviors and how relapse can sometimes be prevented, are important health concepts.

Comprehensive health education teaches students to inquire and solve problems competently. Students set goals, appraise risks, and demonstrate behaviors and conduct that protect and enhance their health. In this way, and in partnership with families and communities, health education supports the resilience of students.


Comprehensive Health Education Teaches Skills That Assist Students To Understand and Communicate Health Information Clearly For Self-Management And Health Promotion.

Comprehensive health education teaches students to identify health information and resources that are current and applicable to their lives. Students learn the types of questions to ask and information to provide when talking with health professionals.

In our society, health information is communicated through a variety of means, such as through health care providers, the media, including professional publications, and health-related events. Through health education, students acquire media literacy by learning to determine if health information is accurate, with whom to share health information, and how to avoid communicating inaccurate information. Health education provides criteria for interpreting conflicting health research and in finding resources for independent research into health topics.


Comprehensive Health Education Contributes To The Capacity Of Students To Work In A Positive Manner With Families, School Staff, Peers, And Community Members To Enhance Personal Health And Create A Safe And Supportive Environment Where Individual Similarities And Differences Are Acknowledged.

Comprehensive health education provides opportunities for students to join with their families, peers, school staff, and community members to build safe schools and communities.

As with the other Frameworks, health contributes to learning about similarities and differences among students.

Health education helps students recognize that personal health is part of the dynamic interaction between individuals and their social environments. Students study ways in which peers, families, mentors, groups, and institutions foster healthy attitudes and expectations of success. Students examine protective factors that support healthy behaviors and habits. Students learn how health promotion is related to caring appropriately for their own health needs and showing others how to maintain and improve their health. Comprehensive health education supports the connections between physical, emotional, cognitive, and social health.

Health education helps students recognize conditions that would make their school safe and accepting of the dignity and worth of all individuals regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, or social or economic background. Students learn about the kinds of activities that build trust and community, the importance of a broad coalition in these activities, and how to make known the presence of support services in their school and community.


Comprehensive Health Education Is Strengthened Through Collaboration And Partnerships Among All Components Of The Coordinated School Health Program And Other Subjects.

The components of a coordinated school health program include classroom-based education as well as program components that are support or service oriented. (see Figure 1)

Classroom-Based Education

  • Comprehensive Health Education (PreK-12)
    • Health Education
    • Physical Education
    • Family and Consumer Sciences Education

Support and Service Components

  • Food and Nutrition Services
  • Health Services
  • Counseling, Psychological, and Social Services
  • Parent, Family, and Community Involvement
  • Health Promotion for Staff
  • Safe and Healthful School Environment

Health education, physical education, and family and consumer sciences teachers collaborate with other school health program staff to connect students with services and activities and provide a healthy school environment for students. When these components are linked in a planned, coherent, mutually supportive system, they reinforce health knowledge and skills as well as attitudes and behaviors that help students stay healthy.
For example:

  • Health services, food and nutrition services, and psychological and counseling services provide direct services to students.
  • Health education involves families in the life of the school, helping them to support students' academic achievement and health.
  • Health promotion programs for staff enable teachers and other staff members to recognize the importance of lifelong health, and to model healthy behaviors for students.

A safe and healthy school environment is a necessity for successful teaching and learning. When instruction and services work together, they can build alliances with the community that improve physical, educational, and social outcomes for all students. The district health coordinator is integral in planning and facilitating the implementation of a comprehensive and coordinated school health program.

Comprehensive health education is also related to other subjects in many ways. For example, health information that is based on scientific and quantitative research is linked to science, technology/engineering and mathematics. The study of epidemiology and the effect of health on shaping human affairs are a part of the study of history. When health education focuses on human relationships it is connected to the social sciences. Health education is connected with practicing movement and behavioral skills and therefore has natural affinities with the performing arts. Health education focuses on communication skills and accurate reporting, which draw heavily on English language arts. Conversations in foreign languages classrooms often include discussions of health-related areas such as food, families, household management, and vocabulary of directional movement, physical activities, and sports.

Figure 1: Components of a Massachusetts Comprehensive School Health Education Program

Suggested Activity for Collaboration Among Components of Coordinated School Health Program

The following activity is a sample of how the staff of a school health coordinated program can collaborate to teach a lesson that goes beyond the classroom for a fuller, more in-depth understanding of a specific health topic.

Lesson: Nutrition education and risk reduction for cardiovascular disease

Health Education

  • Conduct classroom lessons in nutrition and its relationship to cardiovascular disease.
  • Invite guest speaker from American Heart Association to present on the topic.

Family and Consumer Sciences Education

  • Practice reading fat content from food labels.
  • Develop a heart healthy menu for one day.
  • Prepare a reduced fat version of a favorite recipe.

Food and Nutrition Services

  • Reduce the availability of high fat foods for lunch and replace with popular low fat options.
  • Display educational posters around the cafeteria explaining benefits of fruits, vegetables, and grains.

Physical Education

  • Have students participate in an aerobic activity and develop a cardiovascular fitness log to monitor their weekly progress.

Health Services

  • Discuss dietary concerns with students one-on-one and do confidential growth assessments.
  • Make referrals for students and their families to outside resources regarding diet and nutrition as needed.

Community Services

  • Provide school contact with information about teen nutrition center program at local hospital or community health center.
  • Create a referral process with the school.

Source: Adapted from ASCD Curriculum Handbook, 1995.


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Last Updated: October 1, 1999
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