Developing health literacy through school based health education : can reality match rhetoric?

McCuaig, Louise A., Coore, Sally, Carroll, Kristie, Macdonald, Doune, Rossi, Anthony J., Bush, Robert, Ostini, Remo, Hay, Peter and Johnson, Rebecca Developing health literacy through school based health education : can reality match rhetoric?. St Lucia (Qld): School of Human Movement Studies, University of Queensland, 2012.

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Author McCuaig, Louise A.
Coore, Sally
Carroll, Kristie
Macdonald, Doune
Rossi, Anthony J.
Bush, Robert
Ostini, Remo
Hay, Peter
Johnson, Rebecca
Title Developing health literacy through school based health education : can reality match rhetoric?
Place of Publication St Lucia (Qld)
Publisher School of Human Movement Studies, University of Queensland
Publication year 2012
Sub-type Other
Open Access Status
Language eng
Total number of pages 89
Subjects 330100 Education Studies
Formatted Abstract/Summary

Recently in Australia, the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission (2009) and National Preventative Health Taskforce (2009) recommended that one way to strengthen consumer engagement within a health system is to ensure health literacy comprise a core element of the National Curriculum for primary and secondary schooling. However, whilst nationally and internationally schools are mandated to teach health education, there is considerable disjuncture between societies' broad expectations and schools' capacities to deliver programs that promote healthy living (Marks, 2010; Basch, 2010). Given the centrality of literacy education in contemporary schooling (Snyder, 2008), 'health literacy' has been identified as a construct that offers the potential to close this perceived gap (McCuaig, Coore & Hay, 2012; Kickbusch, 2001). To date, there has been limited research as to what a health literacy focused, school based health education curriculum could look like.

The Health Literacy @ Ipswich Schools project endeavoured to discover the extent to which the rhetoric of health sector documents could be realised within the reality and complexity of contemporary schooling. Our first challenge was to address the limited research identifying what would comprise a health literacy unit of school based health education curriculum. In this report we have provided a detailed overview of the curriculum design processes that provide the framework from which a contemporary health literacy unit of work was developed. Findings indicated that the five theoretical concepts that we employed to construct an authentic, relevant and robust health literacy unit were well received by schools, teachers and students.

The second research challenge focused attention on an exploration of the facilitators and barriers surrounding the implementation of a health literacy focused curriculum initiative. Most importantly, this project provided the much-needed educator's focus on the role of schooling in the development and enhancement of young people's health literacy. Our findings demonstrated the complexity associated with curriculum implementation in school settings where diverse resources, time allocations and varied student populations are key features. In short, as with other research, this pilot reinforced the need for schools to have the freedom and flexibility to implement comprehensive health literacy programs that are tailored to the specific needs of their students, staff and community. Other major facilitators included the support of school and curriculum leaders, the use of authentic scenarios and the internet as authentic mediums for student learning, and the teachers' willingness to embrace health education as a significant component of their core business.

In conclusion, this project has demonstrated that the positive rhetoric surrounding the development of health literacy within the context of Australia's core school curriculum has the potential to be realised within the context of contemporary schooling. Here we have purposefully employed the word "potential" as our results suggest that a diverse range of factors influenced successful implementation of the health literacy unit. Of particular interest were the tensions surrounding the teachers' role of 'facilitator of learning', especially as the salutogenic approach foregrounded students' interests, perspectives, needs and resources. These tensions were exacerbated as a result of the emphasis on digital technology and students' access to the internet during the learning experiences, which served to further decentre the role of the teacher as source of all knowledge. Whilst students reveled in the opportunity to explore health topics that specifically related to their needs and interests, their teachers expressed a sense of unease regarding the shift in the teachers' role from expert provider of knowledge and skills to 'facilitator of learning'. These findings draw attention to the critical role that comprehensive teacher professional development plays in ensuring that the reality of health literacy delivery in school based health education matches the rhetoric expressed in government documents.
Keyword Public health
Health education -- Australia
Q-Index Code AX
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status Unknown

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Created: Tue, 04 Nov 2014, 13:28:40 EST by Ms Christine Heslehurst on behalf of Scholarly Communication and Digitisation Service