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

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3 A child’s view of health

The content of the course so far has illustrated some of the factors that influence children’s health. There are many factors that impact on health, and many overlap and interrelate, all of which mean that health is a complex concept. This highlights the importance of adults, whether you are a parent or working in a professional capacity with children being aware of their role in relation to supporting and promoting children’s health. The following section examines health promotion in education settings.

Surprisingly little is known about children’s views of health. In this audio, Oscar, aged 8, is asked a series of questions about what health means to him.

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A photograph of Oscar
Figure 7 Oscar, aged 8

In the audio, you’ll have heard that Oscar appears to have a very well-developed understanding of what makes him healthy. Oscar talks about health in terms of having a condition such as cancer. But he also talks about the importance of health promoting activities such as getting enough exercise and having a healthy diet. Interestingly he has a very heightened understanding of how to avoid becoming unwell because of an infection. This understanding was probably developed because of the attention that was given to the importance of handwashing during the pandemic. You may have found it interesting that he mentions how using a hand sanitiser dries his skin out, and to avoid this, he uses the hand washing station. If a child has eczema, or sensitive skin, it’s important to bear in mind that the uncomfortable feeling that hand sanitisers, or indeed, harsh soaps can have on children’s skin, may be a deterrent to them using hand washing facilities. In turn, this can increase the risk of the spread of infection, so alternative measures and close supervision are important.

A handwritten list
Figure 8 Oscar’s thoughts about what health means to him

From this brief exchange, it can be surmised that Oscar has formed his view of health by making connections with what he has learned from factors within the context of his life. He has more than likely been influenced by the adults around him, and the media. Importantly, he appears to have been influenced by his school environment and recognised that being at school improved his knowledge and wellbeing. You may draw other conclusions from Oscar’s responses.

Activity 3 Asking children

Timing: 15 minutes

Perhaps you would like to do a similar exercise and ask children (with the child’s and their parents’ permission) these questions. Consider asking children of similar or different ages.

  1. What are the differences or similarities between their responses?
  2. How do their insights help to increase your awareness about children’s views of health?
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