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Alaska Department of Education & Early Development
Alaska Skills for a Healthy Life Framework
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- The Need for Healthy Life Skills Education
- Basis for the Skills for a Healthy Life Framework
- Models for Personal Wellness
- School Health Program Components
- Characteristics of a Quality Healthy Life Skills Program
- Program Goals and Objectives
The Need for Skills For A Healthy Life Education
From National Health Education Standards: Achieving Health Literacy (1995)
Educational excellence in the traditional content areas may not be sufficient to secure the future competitiveness of the country. Such a narrow focus ignores poor health status as a major threat to this nations ability to compete economically. Alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use; low levels of physical fitness; poor nutrition; injuries; and stress contribute to lowered health status and result in loss of work or school time.
Health education in schools is essential to enable students to acquire the knowledge and skills to promote health. Students who have health knowledge and skills have better health status and contribute to the nations economic competitiveness by:
- working more effectively;
- missing fewer days from work due to injury and illness;
- using fewer medical services due to prevention or delayed onset of disease; and
- reducing use of health insurance benefits.
Productivity will increase and business costs will decrease as a result of a work force whose members know how to be and stay healthy. In addition, health knowledge and skills applied by individuals within the context of families and communities, ensure a better quality of life. Students who gain health knowledge and skills in school are contributing members of society and important to economic competitiveness.
The long-term results of poor health in this country are critical -- parents, students, and administrators all recognize the need for health education in todays schools. A 1993 Gallup Survey funded by the American Cancer Society documented this high value of health education. A series of questions about health education was posed to a nationally representative sample of parents, school administrators, and adolescents. Major findings were:
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- Nearly nine in ten adolescents feel health information and skills are of equal or greater importance compared to other subjects taught in school.
- More than four in five parents of adolescents (82%) feel health education is either more important than or as important as other subjects taught in school.
- Parents clearly support teaching problem-solving, decision-making, and other health-related skills in schools.
- Administrators view health education as being of equal to or of greater importance than other things adolescents are taught in school and believe that students need to be taught more health information and skills in school.
Basis for the Skills for a Healthy Life Framework
Health literacy is the capacity of an individual to obtain, interpret, and understand basic health information and services and the competence to use such information and services in ways which are health-enhancing.
National Health Education Standards: Achieving Health Literacy (1995)
The Joint Committee on National Health Education Standards developed National Health Education Standards: Achieving Health Literacy (1995). The Joint Committee operated with the following set of assumptions:
- Good health and academic achievement are inseparable.
- Health literacy enables individuals to successfully achieve life goals.
- All students, regardless of physical or learning challenges, deserve the opportunity to achieve health literacy.
- Sufficient instructional time is needed for students to develop health literacy.
- Health education emphasizes concepts and the ability to perform health-related skills and de-emphasizes the memorization of facts.
- Students need the ability to access, evaluate, and apply health information.
- Health literacy is a process through which students engage in cooperative and active learning strategies.
- Students need opportunities to learn and practice health skills and to have healthy behaviors reinforced.
- State and local curriculum planners develop curriculum based upon local health needs.
- Health education emphasizes health promotion and disease prevention concepts while de-emphasizing anatomy and physiology.
- Health literacy is measured by performance and authentic assessment.
- Health literacy leads to a reduction in health care costs.
- Health literacy contributes to healthy and productive citizens.
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Models for Personal Wellness
There are a variety of models for personal wellness. The Frameworks Committee had many discussions about these models, and agreed that total wellness includes physical, social, emotional, intellectual/mental, and spiritual (defined as a persons beliefs, values and guiding principles for behavior) fitness. Local curriculum committees are encouraged to discuss these models for wellness and to decide in what ways to incorporate these concepts into their curriculum.
The basis of any model is encouraging students responsibility for their own behavior in relation to each of the components of the model.
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(such as engaging in daily physical activity, engaging in individual, team, and lifelong physical activities and optimizing health)
(such as having the skills to communicate with all people, having supportive and encouraging relationships with parents, friends, etc., and contributing to the well-being of the community)
(such as showing emotions appropriately and having skills to understand and control emotions)
(such as considering choices and consequences and setting
goals and working on them)
(such as having and living by beliefs and values)
School Health Program Components
A comprehensive health program requires community involvement and support programs in schools. Kolbe lists the following components of a comprehensive health program:
- health services
- health education
- healthy environment
- Integrated school and community health promotion efforts
- physical education
- food service
- counseling services
- health promotion for faculty and staff
Imagine for a moment, that there was no topic in school called mathematics. Instead, what if states mandated separate instruction for addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus, although some states only required addition, multiplication and geometry? And what if the federal government only provided funds for addition and geometry? And some states permitted schools to use federal addition money to teach subtraction while others prohibited this practice? What if each state had an addition and geometry coordinator and regulations which allowed these individuals to spend no more than 12% of their time involved in activities related to subtraction and division? ... Some poetic license aside, this, in many ways, is how health education is structured and funded in this country.
From the testimony of Ken Resnicow, Ph.D., American Health Foundation, before the Committee on Labor and Human Resources, US Senate, March 19, 1992
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Characteristics of a Quality Skills For A Healthy Life Program
In order for a school to create and maintain a quality Skills For A Healthy Life program, it must have an appropriate infrastructure in place. Following are the characteristics of a quality program:
- Health education and physical education are taught by certified teachers qualified to teach their particular health skills. Community resources are used at all levels to reinforce instruction. Coordinated training of both teachers and community should be augmented to provide a quality program. Staff development activities should ensure that teachers encourage students to talk to family members about health issues and associated values of the family unit; personalize instruction and facilitate individualized assessment and goal setting; and model a healthy lifestyle.
- A quality health program is hands-on, activity-based, developmentally appropriate, and leads to positive changes in behavior.
- Effective health instruction methods promote personal responsibility, lifelong learning, critical thinking, and cooperation.
- Effective health instruction uses interdisciplinary approaches.
- A curriculum advisory committee with representation from health professionals, civic leaders, family members and students is in place.
- The curriculum reflects the priorities of the local community, builds sequentially throughout the grades, addresses all content areas for healthy life skills, includes a focus on providing students the opportunities to practice the knowledge and skills learned in the classroom, and includes learning activities to involve family members and community experiences.
- The local school board and individual school buildings have in place a philosophy/mission statement for student learning that includes Skills For A Healthy Life as basic to the curriculum. This policy should address the importance of healthy life skills in the education of every student.
- Local school boards and individual school buildings promote healthy schools.
- At all levels, Skills For A Healthy Life instruction is scheduled during the school day as an integral part of the total school curriculum. Research indicates that this should include two to three hours of healthy life skills instruction weekly in each elementary grade, sixty to seventy hours of healthy life skills instruction in each of grades seven and eight, and two semesters of healthy life skills instruction at the high school level.
- Adequate resources are in place which support and enhance the quality of healthy life skills education in grades K-12. Resources should include adequate time for instruction and planning, qualified staff, and facilities, a dedicated teaching area designed to meet program needs, equipment (including current technology), and moneys for materials, tools, instruments, reference materials and supplies.
- A variety of current materials are available for a thorough study of healthy life skills. This includes supplemental materials such as manipulatives, supplies, equipment, textbooks, live and taped presentations, interactive video disks, and other forms of technology.
- Assessment is an integral part of Skills For A Healthy Life instruction. Teachers regularly monitor, analyze, and evaluate their teaching and student progress. They use a variety of assessment and evaluation methods including student self-assessment.
- There are opportunities for teachers to collaborate, participate in professional development, and join professional associations related to healthy life skills. (See Joint Committee on Healthy Life Skills in Resources section.)
- Due to the nature of some of the topics and possible discussions that may develop during health instruction, it is very important that teachers and staff are aware of sensitive issues, have confidence in community and school norms and policies surrounding such topics, and are aware of community or state resources available for additional information or assistance if needed. Please refer to the reference section for further information.
- It is very important with issues that may be sensitive and difficult to discuss that the teacher and the students feel safe and able to share information that is of a personal nature. Ground rules and norms should be established, trust must be developed and a mechanism for "passing" if the participant chooses to should all be well understood before such topics are discussed.
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Program Goals and Objectives
Goals are the long-range results toward which the curriculum is directed to ensure the development of positive health behaviors. Objectives are a listing of what the students will be able to do at the conclusion of the program as a means of attaining the overall goals. The following are criteria on which to rate a programs goals and objectives.
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- are realistically attainable;
- are related to the districts identified needs;
- are well-defined and measurable;
- include both long-term and short-term objectives;
- include a strong focus on a positive approach to health promotion;
- include a balance of cognitive, affective, and behavioral objectives;
- reflect an appropriate and comprehensive scope and sequence for grade level;
- relate to health enhancement and other accreditation requirements.
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