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Physical and mental health for young children
Physical and mental health for young children

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2 Exploring health for babies and children

As you can see, there is an extensive language associated with ‘health’, and there are many different facets to what health is and how it affects individuals.

This shows a windscreen wiper moving between three possible options: ‘Good mental health’ on the left; ‘Poor mental health’ on the right and ‘Between the two states’ in the middle.
Figure 2 The windscreen wiper of mental health

As an adult, some of our understanding of what health is relates to previous experiences. Therefore, if you have felt unwell, or experienced a period of poor health, perhaps caused by an ongoing medical condition, you may only then appreciate what it is to feel ‘healthy’. As an adult, the problems that can affect health in a negative way, are often based on the signs and symptoms of a condition. For instance, if adults have a viral illness, they can explain that they have a headache, feel exhausted and can usually explain exactly how they feel. This is partly based on the use of language.

So, feeling unwell could be regarded as being different to feeling unhealthy. Feeling unwell can make everybody feel unhealthy, but health is not just about being unwell, it is also about developing an understanding of how you can develop lifestyles that promote health. Leading a healthy life can be a challenge for adults, you may find it difficult to maintain a healthy weight, a way of life or the work you do may mean you have limited access to physical activity. Limited income and time may mean that choosing and preparing healthy food is a challenge. As an adult, even though you understand the health-related reasons why you shouldn’t drink more than the recommended alcohol intake, or why you shouldn’t smoke cigarettes, you may continue to do so.

Health is a complex issue and, for many reasons, it is even more complex when babies and children are considered.

Activity 2 Health for babies and children

Timing: 5 minutes

Explaining what health is, and what needs to be done to be healthy, can be challenging for adults. However, it can be even more complex for babies and children. Before you read on, take a moment to have a think about why this may be the case and write down a few of the reasons that you can think of.

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The next sections unpack some of the factors that you may have written down.