Personal Development: a review of the School-Based Evidence for the Efficacy of Teaching Personal Development in Post-Primary Schools




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7. OTHER PROGRAMMES PROMOTING HEALTH

7.1 Other Programmes Promoting Health: Literature Reviews
Health Promoting Schools

In a review of health promoting schools, Lister-Sharp, Chapman, Stewart-Brown & Sowden (1999) found that they can usefully change health-related behaviour and improve health. Some positive outcomes included injury prevention, healthy eating and cardiovascular health, mental health, positive attitudes and behaviours. Fewer evaluations showed positive effects of preventing substance abuse or high-risk sexual behaviour. However, programmes on these two topics have been reviewed and researched intensively, and are covered in Sections 4 & 5 of this review.


An evaluation of a healthy schools initiative in Ireland was conducted by Morgan (1997). The programme covered personal hygiene, nutrition, relationships, legal and illegal drugs, growth and development, environmental health and safety and first aid. Skills targeted included communication skills, maintaining physical well-being, building self-esteem, assertiveness, decision making skills, skills involved in relationships and study skills. Results showed that teachers rated the programme and the training highly, and compared to students not in the programme, participants in the programme reported more optimistic views of their future, were less likely to predict they would be smokers as adults and had less favourable attitudes and beliefs towards alcohol and smoking.
Accidents/Safety

Reviews of school-based accident prevention programmes showed that some practices can be effective in preventing or promoting certain behaviours. In a review of projects promoting safety policies and education aimed at preventing accidents, Doswell, Towner, Simpson & Jarvis (1996) found pedestrian education aimed at the child & parent to be successful in reducing accidents. However, these were not necessarily school-based.


In a synthesis of reviews of school-based accident prevention programmes, Lister-Sharp, Chapman, Stewart-Brown & Sowden (1999) found some burn prevention programmes increased knowledge about burns, educational interventions had positive effects on increasing bicycle helmet use and a road safety programme improved driver and pedestrian behaviour. One comprehensive school-based health promotion programme that has accident prevention as one of its many aims, has been shown to have impacts on reducing accidents. This programme, Growing Healthy, is reviewed below in Section 7.2.


A health and safety information programme, Life Skills-Learning for Living Programme (Oxford Evaluation Team, 2003), led to improvements in knowledge and confidence in dealing with emergencies. The programme teaches children about safety through interacting with the environment and spotting possible hazards. The programme is not school-based, but rather it is a self-contained site with various sets representing rooms of the house and other locations which might present safety hazards. Although this was not school-based, a lesson from this study is that the interactive, hands-on method of teaching children about health and safety appeared to be effective, as opposed to lecture-style instruction.
Nutrition

Proper eating habits are included in the aims of the Healthy Schools initiatives in the UK and are included in the Northern Ireland Personal Development curriculum. Few literature reviews of programmes aimed at improving healthy eating in schools could be located, but one such programme which showed positive effects on eating habits and attitudes was Growing Healthy (reviewed in Section 7.2).


Eating disorders can be usefully addressed in a PSE scheme. Stewart (1998) found benefits of an eating disorder prevention programme in terms of increased knowledge about eating problems and less deterioration in eating behaviours compared to a control group. The programme aimed among other objectives to promote healthy relationships, improve personal identity, and encourage resilience to peer pressures. These are all related to the personal development scheme. Characteristics of the programme, as with programmes in other areas of personal development, are again interactive, with elements of role-play. They are not simply informational in nature.


A programme hoping to improve the body image of adolescents, Everybody’s Different Program (O’Dea & Abraham, 1999) focused on self-esteem and body image. Body dissatisfaction in young people was successfully reduced and weight control behaviours in girls were altered.
7.2 Other Programmes Promoting Health: Selected Specific Programmes
Healthy Schools Programme: Example

A study evaluating a health promoting school showed positive effects on behaviours and attitudes (Moon, et al., 1999). The curriculum mainly focused on teaching about healthy lifestyles, including information about diet, smoking exercise, drugs and sex education.

The results of this UK study showed benefits in terms of pupils’ health-related knowledge and attitudes, reducing smoking and reducing drug use. The benefits were most pronounced in older girls.
Growing Healthy

Growing Healthy is a comprehensive multi-year health education program as opposed to a single-topic curriculum (reviewed in Catalano, et al., 2004). The comprehensive program incorporates ten content areas, mental and emotional health, family life and health, growth and development, nutrition, personal health, substance use and abuse, disease control and prevention, safety and first aid, consumer health community and environmental health management. The programme starts at early primary school, but does continue up to 6th Grade (age 12).


The skills taught include goal setting, decision making, creative thinking, empathy, self-awareness, problem solving, effective communication, coping with stress, critical thinking, coping with emotions, interpersonal relationship skills.


Some positive outcomes of the programme include the following:

Better personal health management knowledge and attitudes

Better health practices

Decreases in cigarette smoking

Improved attitudes and knowledge about smoking
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