While I am the last person to want to add to teachers’ work load, I do think it is time to teach a real health curriculum, starting in kindergarten. We are facing difficulties with our health system and it is likely to get worse. I have been surprised by how little people understand about dealing with minor illnesses and injuries; as our aging population increases, we will have more patients with increasing health needs. We can’t avoid the need for medical professionals to treat serious illnesses but we can learn to recognise what is serious and what isn’t and how to reduce the load on doctors and hospitals. People need to understand how their bodies function, especially to keep them well. They need to know how to support their body’s effort to keep them well and how to recognise the seriousness of an illness or injury and how to respond. And they need to know how infants and the elderly differ in their health needs.
I have done some research and discovered that much of the curriculum could be covered not only in health classes, but some science and even (economic) geography. It would require some reshaping of the curriculum but, for example, cells are how human beings are constructed, sometimes repaired, attacked by bacteria and viruses and healed. A biology curriculum would have to go further than just teaching cells, but the teaching of how cells operate in bodies may actually help improve retention of cell biology.
Ontario’s grade 1 to 8 curriculum is primarily concerned with making healthy choices:
Health Curriculum Grades 1 to 8
Personal Safety and Injury Prevention.
Substance Use, Addictions, and Related Behaviours.
Growth and Development
Integration of Mental Health
This is good, but not enough. A more thoroughly developed curriculum would empower our future citizens in taking responsibility for their own health.
I live in a city where a lot of people bicycle. I have noticed that very few cyclists realise that they come under the same laws and regulations as cars. There are some allowances made for parking bikes and occasionally they are allowed (the permission is posted clearly) to enter a road blocked to cars. There are many bike lanes.
Driving a car without lights and using a cellphone while driving are both illegal here. Recently a young woman was hit by a car as she cycled on the wrong side of the road at night without lights and while texting. The local media did say the driver of the car was not charged but they did not make it clear how many violations this woman was guilty of. In addition, she was not wearing a helmet. Helmets are mandatory here for children (not adults) but many children and adults wear them sitting improperly on their heads, on top of caps or not firmly secured. A great waste of money.
When I was a kid, the police used to come to the school to talk to us about road safety – as pedestrians and cyclists. While many of us might have ignored the advice, at least we knew that what we were doing was either dangerous or illegal. That program no longer exists. Fire departments have trailers designed to teach fire safety and public health nurses used to come to school to teach personal hygiene and how to use a toothbrush. These programs not only made an impression but it broadened students’ horizons to recognise what some of the resources in their community were.
I realise that changes need to be made to the way our health care is delivered and medical professionals are taking steps to streamline care without making it less effective. That is not my field, however. What I am proposing is that we educate our citizenry in how to care for themselves and when they need to seek professional help.
Including mental health is perhaps not more than a gesture as treatment is
available only to those are seriously ill or who have enough money to pay for care. Perhaps a country of people who understand mental illness, believe it can be treated and are aware of what mental illness costs in productivity are might decide that mental health also needs funding.
What I propose is a curriculum starting in grade one and largely delivered by the end of grade ten. My next post will give a detailed outline of the proposed health curriculum.
- In ‘Peer’ We Trust (madinamerica.com)
- I Damaged My Children By Hiding My Mental Illness From Them (thegoodmotherproject.com)
- Misconceptions about mental health (mentalhealthstories.wordpress.com)
- Kathy Rohr: Myths about mental illness are harmful (lacrossetribune.com)
- Coping with Chronic Illness: Specialist Toby Dauber on Becoming Stronger and Living a Fulfilling Life (prweb.com)
- The Benefits Of Homeopathy Naturopathy Montreal (allabouthealthandfitnessblog.wordpress.com)
- How Do Physical and Psychological Health Co-Exist? (thenerdynurse.com)