The need for comprehensive health education in schools: From September 2020 the UK curriculum has adapted the way it teaches sex education. Sex and relationship education (SRE) has been replaced by compulsory sex and relationship education (RSE). The changes adopted were developed to respond to a growing need among young people to understand and sufficiently develop the skills required to maintain healthy and respectful relationships. These changes are a step in the right direction; give young people the tools they need to build appropriate relationships throughout childhood and beyond.
The health and well-being of our children is also covered in the school curriculum, covering topics such as maintaining their mental well-being, healthy eating and understanding nutrition; although these issues are not addressed in the same SRE or RSE detail.
As a nurse, I have always believed that health education and related topics should be covered in depth in a dedicated lesson, rather than scattered over a variety of topics, so that we can influence health behaviors from an early age. Research suggests that students who participate in health education as part of their school curriculum have improved health-related knowledge and attitudes, health literacy and skills, and that this has an effect positivee impact on healthy promotion behaviors.
If health education begins early and continues throughout a child’s development and growth, national goals for well-being and well-being can be achieved. The importance of health literacy and health promotion has never been more evident and compelling than in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, where so many health issues have resolved themselves.
According to Resuscitation advicemore than a third (38%) of UK adults have never had any training to learn the CPR skills, skills that could save a life. St-Jean‘Ambulancerevealed that 140,000 people die every year in the UK from incidents where first aid could potentially save their lives, with research by the Red Cross showing that only 5% of adults have the skills and confidence to provide first aid in emergency situations.
In 2020, the Department of Education confirmed that all state-funded schools in England will now be required to teach CPR and first aid as part of health education for children. This was a huge step forward in recognizing the importance of health education for young people, a move the UK government had previously blocked in a Private House Bill 2015/2016, which aimed to make first aid a central part of education in every secondary school in the country.
Health education in childhood will influence health habits throughout life. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes the impact of early intervention on health education in their publication titled “Make every school a health promoting school‘.
the WHO reported that:
- Bhutan has recorded improvements in student physical health over time, attributed to the successful implementation of specific school health policies and programs implemented uniformly across all regions of the country;
- In Paraguay, teachers received non-monetary incentives for participating in the implementation of a school health strategy. Improvements have been seen in nutrition, student retention, engagement in learning, reduction of school violence, more employment opportunities and strengthening of community agriculture; and
- In Indonesia, there is an annual national competition for the best health promotion school, which is considered a very prestigious award, showing the value and the impact they think it has on their country.
There is great value for savings in teaching comprehensive health literacy. Learning to master health not only provides knowledge and understanding of what can reduce the incidence of chronic diseases, but also gives a sense of self-efficacy and empowerment through health education, by encouraging people to take charge of their own health needs from an early age. age.
The current system in the UK needs to be overhauled and strengthened when it comes to health education in our schools. Currently, it is delivered inconsistently and difficult for teachers to manage, as topics are often scattered across a variety of subjects. I would like to see us adopt a system where children are taught ‘health’ in a dedicated lesson, like in Australia.
Topics covered in “Health” (at age-appropriate levels) should include knowledge and understanding of health, first aid, CPRcommon conditions, mental health and relationships, use of health services, growth and development, factual information about the human body, family and social health, drugs, alcoholism and drug addiction, disease prevention and control, community and environmental health, lifestyle , nutrition and fitness. Classes could additionally participate in projects related to global health issues and community health projects, clinicians could be invited to speak to students on topics related to health and wellness, and students can clearly learn about available services and be actively empowered to use them.
In 2018, The Kings Fund shared their report ‘Responsibility for health: the cultural change we need”, in which they stated; “There is good evidence that people take greater responsibility for managing their own health when they are empowered and motivated to do so. However, this must go hand in hand with providing people with the knowledge and information that will help them do so. Patient engagement and health literacy have long been an issue when it comes to health outcomes, but there appears to have been a shift in recent health attitudes, with millennials being increasingly concerned about health burden and using health apps and wearable devices. to follow this. And although the burden of disease continues to grow rapidly, concern for individual health seems to grow alongside it. Now is the time to act. By ensuring a standardized approach to health education, I believe we can positively use this shift in health attitudes and behaviors and health outcomes for future generations, creating a nation that knows the health literacy.
I’m a registered nurse, so maybe my perspective on the importance of health education is a bit skewed by my day-to-day experience working in the NHS. But I am also a daughter, a sister and a mother. My daughter is 3 years old and I hope that when she has to make decisions about her own health or that of her family, she can do so from an informed point of view, armed at least with a good base of health knowledge.
To energize this conversation, I have also created a petition “Make health education a separate compulsory subject in all schools”. And I invite you to sign and share with the hope that the government will consider and respond to this proposal.
Support this petition – https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/610659?fbclid=IwAR0kiJI05mlihyBp9uYGi76dBUgxryX04IoGjxs9cK_pmruH3ffigqPf7IE