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The picture of health: examining school-based health environments through photographs

22 Apr 2016


Summary

Health-promoting schools (HPS) is an effective approach to enhance the health and well-being of children and youth, but its measurement remains a challenge considering contextual differences across school environments. The purpose of this study was to qualitatively explore the physical features of the school environment through photographs of schools that had implemented an HPS approach compared with schools that had not. This study used a descriptive approach, wherein physical features of the school environment were distilled through visual images and qualitatively analyzed. School environment data were collected from 18 elementary schools (10 HPS, 8 comparison schools) from a school board in rural Nova Scotia (Canada). Evaluation assistants captured photographs of the physical school environment as part of a broader environment audit. Overarching themes included the promotion, access and availability of opportunities for healthy eating and physical activity, healthy school climate and safety and accessibility of the school. The photographs characterized diverse aspects of the school environment and revealed differences between schools that had implemented an HPS approach compared with schools that had not. There were increased visual cues to support healthy eating, physical activity and mental well-being, and indications of a holistic approach to health among schools that implemented an HPS approach. This research adds to understanding the environmental elements of HPS. The use of photographic data to understand school environments provided an innovative method to explore the physical features of schools that had implemented an HPS approach.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in Health Promotion International