In his new book, Duncan Van Dusen argues that health education should be integrated into the national K-12 curriculum, based on compelling evidence that “whole child” health programs create the most successful students.
Health education empowers students, writes Van Dusen, founder of CATCH, a global organization for training health educators. Positive health behaviors lead to improved student performance, increased life expectancy, elimination of unhealthy habits and avoidance of disease. More encompassing than factual knowledge about sex or substance abuse, effective health education addresses stress/trauma, benefits of physical activity, proper nutrition, and most importantly, healthy choice-making skills.
Van Dusen offers solutions for transforming the educational infrastructure to a social, emotional, and problem-solving, skill-based approach where students can practice desired health behaviors. Schools that make this shift toward an integrated “health culture,” he notes, witness the blossoming of academic achievement.
The author presents convincing, uplifting case studies of low-income urban and rural communities, from Texas to New York City, in which poorly performing schools are transformed when principals, parents, and lawmakers work to implement health curricular and policy changes using a team approach, accountability, and modeling. The book includes a powerful informative chapter on the history of e-cigarettes and youth vaping, along with useful charts and summaries of Recommended Actions for change.
At times, the discussion can seem simplistic. “[H]ealth requires education and education requires health,” and a focus on a “Monkey see, monkey do” approach (the idea that kids do what adults model) are weak foundational tenets. However, the author’s research and extensive citations reference respected public health, educational, and scientific journals. Readers will encounter a veritable alphabet soup of acronyms, but the glossary provides thorough definitions.
In the closing chapters, Van Dusen promotes his foundation, CATCH, describing achievements and innovative programs at target schools. His passion is infectious and inspiring, and his method is difficult to dispute.
In sum, educators in all fields will find this book thought-provoking, accessible and practical.
Also available as an ebook.