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K–12 Health Education That Works!

Skills-Based Health Ed

What is skills-based health education?

The World Health Organization defines skills-based health education as “an approach to creating or maintaining healthy lifestyles and conditions through the development of knowledge, attitudes, and especially skills, using a variety of learning experiences, with an emphasis on participatory methods.”

Skills-based health education recognizes that knowledge alone is not enough to change health behaviors. Students need to have a personal value for health, be supported by healthy norms and, perhaps most important, build and practice the key skills for health literacy that will enable them to adopt and maintain healthy behaviors.

A skills-based approach puts the emphasis on teaching and mastering practical health skills over memorizing detailed information about health processes. Functional knowledge directly related to the practice of healthy behaviors continues to be important, but skills-based programs focus on developing key skills that will support health and wellness across the various dimensions of health.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that one of the characteristics of an effective health education program is that it “builds personal competence, social competence, and self-efficacy by addressing skills.” HealthSmart was designed to meet all of these characteristics in addition to its strong skills focus.

So, what are these key skills for health?

Essential skills for health literacy are described in Standards 2 through 8 of the National Health Education Standards. The performance indicators for each standard support the progression and gradual deepening of skill development across the K–12 grade span.

  • Standard 2: Analyzing Influences. Students will analyze the influence of family, peers, culture, media, technology and other factors on health behaviors.
  • Standard 3: Accessing Resources. Students will demonstrate the ability to access valid information, products and services to enhance health.
  • Standard 4: Interpersonal Communication. Students will demonstrate the ability to use interpersonal communication skills to enhance health and avoid or reduce health risks. This includes refusal and negotiation skills, conflict resolution skills, and being able to ask for and offer help.
  • Standard 5: Decision Making. Students will demonstrate the ability to use decision-making skills to enhance health.
  • Standard 6: Goal Setting. Students will demonstrate the ability to use goal-setting skills to enhance health.
  • Standard 7: Practicing Health-Enhancing Behaviors. Students demonstrate the ability to practice strategies and skills to enhance personal health and reduce health risks.
  • Standard 8: Advocacy. Students will demonstrate the ability to advocate for personal, family and community health.

How does HealthSmart teach skills?

HealthSmart uses a research-based, step-by-step approach to skills development, with special attention to how a skill is best broken down and taught, particularly at the earliest grades.

  • First, the teacher introduces the skill and helps students relate it to their lives through examples.
  • Next, the teacher explains the sequential and specific steps for the successful performance of the skill.
  • Then the teacher models the entire skill sequence for students, going through each step with relevant examples. This is a very important part of the process.
  • Students then have the opportunity for guided practice of the skill through structured roleplays, large-group discussion or small-group work with support from the teacher.
  • Finally, teachers can assess students’ mastery of the skill as they demonstrate the skill on their own and receive feedback and reinforcement.

How HealthSmart builds skills: Introduce, explain, model, practice, assess

Skills may also be reinforced in other lessons, but every lesson labeled as a Skill lesson in HealthSmart will have this Explain—Model—Practice sequence of teaching steps.

See the list of skills lessons for Grades K-5, Middle School and High School.

Does my state require skills-based health education?

More and more state standards mandate the teaching of skills as an essential part of health education. HealthSmart has excellent alignment to state standards that incorporate the skills found in the National Health Education Standards.

See the HealthSmart alignment to various state standards here.