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Health Education


This image is from the book Health Education: Elementary and Middle School Applications


What are the Six Domains of Health in Health Education?

Health is best understood as the capacity to function in effective and productive ways, influenced by complex personal, behavioral, and environmental variables that can change quickly (Telljohann, Symons, Pateman, Seabert, 2015). Bedworth and Bedworth (1992) have defined health as “the quality of people’s physical, psychological, and sociological functioning that enables them to deal adequately with the self and others in a variety of personal and social situations.” In summary, current definitions emphasize both the independent strength and interactive effect of six influential domains of health: the physical, mental/intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, and vocational.

First, physical health is the most easily observed domain of health. It results from a complex and changing set of personal, family, social, financial, and environmental variables. Second, the mental or intellectual domain of health is the capacity to interpret, analyze, and act on information. Additional indicators of mental or intellectual health include the ability to recognize the sources of influence over personal beliefs and to evaluate their impact on decision making and behaviors. Third, the emotional domain of health is represented by the ways in which feelings are expressed. Emotionally healthy people communicate self-management and acceptance and express a full range of feelings in socially acceptable ways. Experiencing positive emotions and managing negative ones in productive ways contribute balance to emotional health. Fourth, social health is characterized by practicing the requisite skills to navigate a variety of social environments, including homes, schools, neighborhoods, and workplaces effectively. People with strength in the social domain of health maintain comfortable relationships characterized by strong connections, mutuality, and intimacy. Fifth, the spiritual domain of health is best understood in the context of a combination of three important elements: (1) comfort with self and the quality of interpersonal relationships with others, (2) the strength of one’s personal value system, (3) the pursuit of meaning and purpose in life. Spiritually healthy people integrate positive moral and ethical standards such as integrity, honesty, and trust in their relationships. Lastly, the vocational domain of health relates to the ability to collaborate with others in family, community, or professional projects. Vocationally healthy people are committed to contributing their fair share of effort to projects and activities.

What specific steps can educators take to ensure that the health standards and mandates related to physical exercise, and alcohol, drug, and sex education are being addressed?

There are laws that support the implementation of making students aware of the importance of physical exercise, and the effects that could result from alcohol and drug abuse, and the teaching of sex education at school. As a teacher, one specific way to ensure that I am addressing the health standards, and mandates are through the incorporation of health education in other lessons in school. Research has confirmed that the majority of people begin to experiment with all kinds of health-risk behaviors during their youth. Initial exposure to such risks occurs before most people participate in any formal and evidence-based health instruction. To address this obvious case of developmentally inappropriate practice, health education advocates have invested considerable energy in trying to make planned and intentional health education a more prominent and consistent part of the course of study in elementary schools. Although most elementary and middle school teachers believe that health education is important, it is difficult to dedicate sufficient instructional time to address all health education essential content and skills within the school day. As a result, teachers must use limited instructional time wisely.


While it is not important for classroom teachers in elementary and middle schools to understand the underpinnings of all health behavior theories, one way to enrich instruction with a theoretical foundation is to apply the theory of planned behavior (Kane, Tellijohann, & Quiroz, 2001). This theory is based on the belief that the most important factor that influences health behavior is the behavioral intention. The theory of planned behavior asserts that behavioral intention is influenced by three major variables: (1) attitudes toward the behavior, (2) subjective norms, (3) perceived behavioral control. By using this theory as a backbone of my instruction, I’ll be able to assimilate health education standards effectively to other lessons in school and make sure to encourage positive behavioral intention through the support of the three major variables.


Bedworth, D. & Bedworth, A. (1992). The profession and practice of health education.


Kane, W., Tellijohann, S., & Quiroz, H. (2001). HealthSmart program foundation: Standards, theory, results.


Telljohann, S. K., Symons, C. W., Pateman, B. & Seabert, D. M. (2015). Health education: Elementary and middle school applications.


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