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Massachusetts Comprehensive Health Curriculum Framework - October 1999

Core Concept

Through health literacy, self-management skills, and health promotion, comprehensive health education teaches fundamental health concepts, promotes habits and conduct that enhance health and wellness, and guides efforts to build healthy families, relationships, schools, and communities.

Health Literacy focuses on acquisition of knowledge and includes:
  • the capacity to obtain, understand, and evaluate health information and services;
  • learning about physical changes and how the body functions; and
  • knowledge of the relationship between movement and health.

Through reading, observation, discussion, and actions students learn to locate information and assess its reliability, make reasoned decisions based on accurate information, and apply their knowledge to their own health and safety. Students learn what it is to be healthy, about development, and about the importance of physical fitness in their overall level of health and wellness. Health literacy is critical for healthy self-management and health promotion.

Healthy Self-Management enables students to:

  • integrate and apply knowledge and skills with respect to their health-related decisions, actions, and conduct;
  • learn to assume increased responsibility for their health-related decisions, actions, and conduct; and
  • consider potential consequences and evaluate outcomes.

Healthy self-management entails self-assessment, goal setting, and decision-making based on an understanding of risk and probability. By practicing a repertoire of developmentally appropriate behaviors that promote health, students can significantly increase the likelihood of good physical, emotional, cognitive, social, and environmental health.

Health Promotion helps students demonstrate:

  • competence in using information and services;
  • how to present accurate information about health; and
  • the capability to respond to health concerns, including emergencies.

Knowledge and good communication skills are critical to health promotion. Students learn how to present factual information about health in ways that promote responsible actions while still considering the rights of individuals. Health promotion can take many forms. By contributing to improvements in the health of the natural environment and the physical safety of their communities, students learn what can be accomplished by an individual as well as by a group. Students work with families, school staff, and community members to determine concrete steps they can take to build a strong social fabric that fosters positive growth and development.

Fundamental health knowledge and skills need to be taught starting in pre-kindergarten and early elementary years, and reinforced and expanded regularly in subsequent grades. A planned, sequential curriculum addresses a variety of topics with increasing degrees of complexity appropriate to students' developmental levels as they move from early to middle childhood and then into adolescence. Such a program ensures thorough, balanced coverage of health content areas, and its success relies on skilled teachers who readily adapt to incorporate emerging health topics.


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Last Updated: October 1, 1999
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