A planned, sequential, K-12 curriculum that addresses the physical, mental, emotional and social dimensions of health.
Health education provides students K-12 with instruction that is appropriate for their age. Ideally, this instruction is planned so that lessons expand upon and reinforce content over time. The curriculum helps students develop the knowledge, attitudes, and skills they need to avoid risky behaviors and maintain and improve their health. Some people think that health education solely addresses disease prevention; others think that it only covers sex education; still others view health education as focusing on personal hygiene. School health education needs to be comprehensive. In 1990, the Joint Committee on Health Education Terminology agreed that health instruction needs to cover a number of content areas that include: alcohol, tobacco and other drugs; consumer and community health; family life and human sexuality education; environmental health; personal health practices; prevention and control of diseases and disorders; injury and violence prevention and safety; nutrition; and mental health.
Not all school districts have planned K-12 health education for their students. Today health education is not always viewed as important as traditional academic subjects, yet schools must respond to an increasing number of health related problems that can interfere with student learning.
The following documents were released by the American Cancer Society, the American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association. They address the importance of health education in schools and are valuable resources that can be used to bring about greater awareness of the importance of and need for quality, K-12 school health education. Download these documents now: Health Education Fact Sheet and Statement on Health Education.
In 2007, the American Cancer Society published the 2nd Edition National Health Education Standards. (NHES). The NHES offer educators the framework for planning and implementing comprehensive health education instruction Pre-K through Grade 12. The NHES is the recognized reference for health education in the United States and can be obtained at www.cancer.org/NHES.