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Massachusetts Comprehensive Health Curriculum Framework - October 1999

Considerations in Health Education

Health education addresses knowledge and skills as well as personal and social development. Knowledge and skills form the foundation of health education, while attention to personal and social aspects contributes to a more complete view of health education. Attributes internal to the individual and factors external to the individual both influence health decisions.

Health education is a field marked by rapid changes due to the pace at which medical breakthroughs occur. Through science, technology, business, and industry, we continue to gain a deeper understanding of disease related to genetics and the environment as well as a greater understanding of prevention and treatment options. In addition, single events occur that often influence health. The knowledge base in health therefore can change swiftly and is often informed by science, technology, business, and industry. The development of new knowledge and skills is often necessary for good health.

Attention to the physical, cognitive, and social/emotional development of students increases the likelihood of an effective health education program. Changes in behavior and capacities that are relatively enduring refer to development that occurs physically and psychologically. Development is an interaction between learning and maturation, and is also cumulative in nature. Much of health education has to do with the teaching of knowledge about physical changes as well as skills for the maintenance of the body. Physical education programs are specifically designed for the changes of the body throughout childhood and adolescence, in particular taking into consideration the skills that will be possible and the interests that children of different developmental periods have toward physical activities as related to maturation. Understanding of cognitive development is useful in teaching the concepts of health education in such a way as to best match with students' cognitive capabilities. Emotional and social development are integral to health education and awareness of these informs the teaching of health education in a way that is developmentally appropriate and addresses topics that coincide with the interests and concerns of students.

Within the research-based strategies that have been found to improve the effectiveness of health education, the following are among the most consistently supported in the health education research literature:

  • Present health information that is accurate and current.
  • Adopt curriculum, instruction, and assessment strategies that guide students toward self-directed, independent, and cooperative learning and living in line with real-life experiences.
  • Incorporate materials, teaching methods, and outcomes that are appropriate to the age, experience, background, and readiness of the students.
  • Employ a variety of teaching methods to involve participants, including experiential activities, role-play, and problem solving.
  • Establish positive school climate by enlisting the involvement, support, and participation of students, parents, business and industry, voluntary and governmental agencies, and community leaders.

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Last Updated: October 1, 1999
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