Promoting Health in Schools

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Obesity is an ever growing epidemic with 1 in 6 children being overweight. The early developmental years provide key learning and attitudes towards food. It is the responsibility of the parents and the school education system to shape these beliefs and attitudes and help empower adolescents to make informed decisions that will results with good long term health choices. This essay will focus on the role of health literacy and how it is promoted within the education system. Patient empowerment will be explored and will explain how nurses can implement and use empowerment to promote health literacy in comparison to the medical model. Determinants of health will also be explored. This essay will further outline strategies that nurses can implement into schools to help promote health literacy and raise awareness of childhood obesity. These strategies will primarily focus on an individual level and will explore a few strategies that can be used to promote health literacy to parents. Schools are an effective setting to promote health literacy and to promote healthy eating strategies; adolescents should be given the opportunity to develop their knowledge and skills that will facilitate them to make life long health choices. Health literacy plays an essential role within the health education system. Health literacy can be defined as the ability to obtain, process and understand basic health information to make appropriate health decisions (Sparling, 2010). Lee (2009) outlines that the goal of school health education should be to expand and develop student’s knowledge about health literacy and to prepare them with the knowledge and skills they need to make informed decisions that will lead to lifelong healthy behaviours. This goal is consistent with the WHO definition of health literacy. WHO defines health literacy as the “cognitive and social skills which determine the motivation and ability of individuals to gain access to, understand and use information in ways which promote and maintain good health” (WHO, 2013). Therefore it is imperative that health literacy is created and supported by a range of policies that will enhance individual knowledge and skills and is supplied with supportive environments to make healthy informed choices. Health literacy is promoted on three levels of public health intervention; these include primary, secondary and tertiary levels. Primary prevention can be defined as methods of prevention that are provided to individuals to prevent the onset of a targeted health condition (St John and Keleher, 2007). Prevention methods can include activities to help promote health and to prevent illness or disease from occurring and intervention methods used include health education, screening and immunisation. Secondary prevention is focused on health maintenance and early detection as well as health promotion and interventions to prevent complications (St John and Keleher, 2007). Tertiary prevention is aimed at assisting individuals to optimise their overall well being, to minimise deterioration and to improve quality of life (St John and Keleher, 2007). Interventions methods may include rehabilitation to assist individuals to work through their physical or psychological challenges and to achieve overall wellbeing and quality of life. Lee (2009) implies that schools can play a role in both primary and secondary prevention. Schools play a vital role in the promotion of health literacy. Classroom based activities provide opportunities for students to learn and identify what creates health thus enabling them the power to make informed choices in regards to their health. The improvements to health literacy can help contribute to lowering and overcoming inequalities in health. Limited health literacy can have a significant effect on the health and wellbeing of the community. Nutbeam (2009) recognises that limited health literacy can have a significant impact upon an individual’s total health status. Recent...
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