From the food in the cafeteria to PE classes to counseling resources, schools play a vital role in influencing the health of their students. Here at SH101, we provide an additional tool for schools to help students become healthier individuals.

Our e-magazine meets students where they’re at, leverages the technology students are already using (smartphones, laptops, and tablets), and engages them in the health and wellness topics they care about. We aim to impact as many students’ lives as possible by influencing them to choose healthier, more productive behaviors.

So how do we encourage students to make healthier choices? There are a few ways. First and foremost, we employ best practices from health communication, health education, and health promotion. We’ll turn to the experts for a specific explanation of these terms:

Health communication: The use of communication strategies to inform and influence individual decisions that enhance health. —Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

See an example: The Verb Campaign

Health education: Any combination of learning experiences designed to help individuals and communities improve their health, by increasing their knowledge or influencing their attitudes. —World Health Organization

See an example: We can!

Health promotion: The process of enabling people to increase control over, and to improve, their health. —World Health Organization

Example: RESPECT!

These fields overlap in many ways, but they all have one thing in common: They are striving to improve the health outcomes of populations. This is a concept we refer to as population-level health promotion.

Why do we need population level health promotion?

Think about the different ways we take care of our health. For example, we go to the doctor when we have a specific health concern or for an annual check up. The doctor conducts an evaluation, and when necessary, creates a diagnosis and prescribes a treatment plan. This is important for monitoring our health and essential when we are hurt or ill.

However, being healthy and preventing chronic diseases and conditions means taking care of our health on a daily basis, not just when we have a sprained ankle or a case of strep throat. Population-level health promotion helps us do that by marketing healthy behaviors to us in a similar way to how products and services are marketed to us. Health promotion uses behavioral theory to convince us why it benefits us to choose a specific healthy behavior, such as quitting smoking.

We know that just telling someone to quit smoking because it’s bad for them doesn’t work. In fact, getting people to change their health behaviors is very complex (we’ll discuss this in a future blog post). But if we stop and think about it, we can recognize that health promotion is all around us. For example, when we see an anti-smoking billboard or a safe driving public service announcement, those are health promotion efforts, often put together by the CDC, the National Institutes of Health, or a non-profit organization.

How we use health promotion

Here at SH101, we focus our health promotion efforts on using behavior change theory, academic research, and engaging, interactive articles in our bi-monthly e-magazine. Our goal? Influencing students to make better choices, even if they don’t realize they’re doing it. We cover a wide range of topics that affect students’ wellness, such as stress, healthy eating, academics, physical activity, sleep, substance use, relationships, and many more.

Ultimately, we hope that we can influence students to lead more successful, healthier lives. Why do we do this? Aside from the obvious benefits of having healthier populations entering the world and workforce, we also know that healthy students are better learners. The CDC puts it this way:

“The health of young people is strongly linked to their academic success, and the academic success of youth is strongly linked with their health. Helping students stay healthy is a fundamental part of the mission of schools.”
—Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

How are you influencing the health of your student body? Tell us in the comments section or tag us on Twitter @SH101HighSchool.