Health Promotion in School
Theory, Practice and Clinical Implications
di Antonio Iudici
In addition to the role of educating the citizens of the future, schools today respond to other social needs, especially in promoting health. A school is a key place to impact the thinking of young people through various social situations, such as teachers and educators dealing with issues that may not be faced within the family (e.g. knowledge of sexually transmitted diseases); treating certain themes through peer group settings (for example, learning to discuss topics of interest with someone of the same age in the presence of an adult guide); facilitating the understanding of different cultural norms (for example, developing knowledge of certain social rules or offenses for foreign students); and finally, allowing young people to interpret the promotion of health as a collective responsibility that has multiple steps.
Schools have increasingly needed the help of professionals from the educational and psychological fields. Examples of this would be the requests for specialist assistance in dealing with “difficult” or “unmanageable” children, and courses in school that teach tobacco or drugs prevention, anti-bullying, sex education, etc. In fact, all you need to ensure proper health promotion in schools is a synergetic combination of the issues of health and education. Yet, work in schools on health issues is not always easy, especially in terms of certain issues: finding a common line among experts and teachers is difficult; time to work together on projects is limited; often there is no project evaluation; external professionals have trouble finding time while school is in session to come to a school; principals and teachers are not willing to deal with health issues; there is a lack of cooperation on the part of the students’ parents; the school’s program and the national health plan are not well regulated; and students tend to listen passively and are unwilling to be directly involved. Therefore, a significant social responsibility for health promotion is placed on schools without adequate support being available to them. Schools should be provided with the resources and educational skills necessary for them to address the issues that society requires them to deal with. This work seeks to create a link between health promotion and schools, to describe the various theoretical approaches to health promotion currently existing world-wide, to perform a historical analysis of some issues that affect health at school (smoking, bullying, deviance, intercultural issues etc.), and to present some operative interventions for the benefit of school leaders, teachers, parents, educators, and psychologists.