teacher walking with student in a school corridor

It is important to involve the teachers in the work with student health

"Health promotion" is a vague term and there is uncertainty as regards the teachers' role in the work. This is how a study of practical student health plans summarises the health promotion work in upper secondary schools.

Schools are important places for health promotion work and according to the Swedish National Agency for Education, every professional within the school system must work to promote health. One problem, however, is that the term "health promotion" is vague, and what is actually meant in concrete terms is left to school managers and schools to determine.

"The fact that the term is undefined can be an advantage when adapting health promotion measures at an individual school. The risk is, however, that health promotion work becomes so vague that nobody takes responsibility for it or understands what should be done", says Zofia Hammerin.

Zofia is a doctoral student in pedagogy, specialisation social pedagogy. Together with professor Disa Bergnehr and associate professor Goran Basic, she has investigated how health promotion work and the role of teachers are interpreted in student health plans in Swedish upper secondary schools.

"Our study shows that the teacher is generally overlooked in student health plans. This can lead to the teacher's work becoming invisible or the teacher's responsibility to work in a health-promoting manner being removed. This could be viewed as a cause for concern, as it has been demonstrated that the teacher is an important actor in the promotion of the health of students", Disa Bergnehr means.

A visible role is uncommon

It is extremely uncommon in the examined material for the teacher to have a visible role in the student health plans. When this happens, the teacher's role is linked to the concepts of presence, management and stimulation, teaching, and relationship work. These activities can hardly be seen as anything other than part of the teacher's normal job description, Goran Basic believes.

"If policymakers were to emphasise the teacher as important in the documents, with his/her competence and knowledge of the students, it may have a positive impact on the practical student health work and possibly student health. We recommend to clearly make the teacher a participant who, together with student health service staff and school management, could work to create a health-promoting learning environment and school."

"If the teacher's responsibility in this work falls within the already existing assigned mission, it is neither controversial nor dependent on more resources. Rather, it is compatible with the teacher's professional identity and something that teachers can positively relate to and willingly undertake."

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