Health Education

A Vision for Health Education in Boston

Our vision is to provide comprehensive health education to all students in the Boston Public Schools through a sustainable program model founded on medically accurate information that introduces developmentally appropriate knowledge and skills at each grade level. In 2011-2012, we revised our Health Education Frameworks to meet the needs and interests of urban youth, with particular attention paid to the racial, ethnic, cultural, and geographic diversity of Boston. Furthermore, these frameworks integrate learning across the many disciplines of the BPS curriculum.

Health education is an essential part of our work to improve educational outcomes for BPS students. Healthy students are students who are ready to learn. When students have the knowledge and the skills they need to be healthy, their academic performance will improve. Health classes provide a unique educational space within the school day in which students reflect on their own lives, connect with their peers, and gain support from their teachers. Strengthening both skills and literacy will increase students’ positive development and help them become thriving adults who successfully contribute to our society.

Health Education in Context

Health education is a critical component of the Coordinated School Health model, as outlined by the CDC. Schools must support the health of the whole child, which includes physical wellness, academic achievement, and social/ emotional development. While health education provides opportunities for skill-building and learning information, further access to individualized support and medical services is necessary. School nurses, school guidance counselors, and school- or community-based health resource centers are other critical components of the Coordinated School Health model. Effective health education will help students connect with these other resources.

Schools are in a unique position to support parents by providing resources to families and offering homework assignments and school-based programming that can serve as a guide for conversations at home. In this way, bringing health education into the classroom will uniquely contribute to the efforts of BPS to promote healthy and positive development in all students. Furthermore, as students get older and are more and more strongly influenced by their peers, schools play a central role in shaping peer group norms. Health education helps build social support from family and peers for making healthy decisions and building healthy literacy.

These Health Education Frameworks present health knowledge and skills through interdisciplinary, integrated learning across the curriculum. Key curriculum messages will be presented using concepts and methods from multiple subject areas, helping students build skills and competencies in reading, language arts, math, science, and social studies. The Health and Wellness Department is committed to providing resources for the effective implementation of these Health Education Frameworks in each of these subject areas in ways that will meet subject-specific learning objectives while strengthening health literacy.


The Skills-based Approach

Our Health Education program takes a skills-based approach. By structuring classes using the skills-based approach, health education empowers students to pursue healthy lifestyles by equipping them with lifelong skills. The following definitions and rationales are taken from the National Standards for Health Education.

The following 6 skills will be taught in the 4 overarching content areas:

  • Analyzing Influences

Definition:  Students will analyze the influence of family, peers, culture, media, technology, and other factors on health behaviors.

Rationale: Health is affected by a variety of positive and negative influences within society. This standard focuses on identifying and understanding the diverse internal and external factors that influence health practices and behaviors among youth, including personal values, beliefs, and perceived norms.

  •  Accessing Resources

Definition:  Students will demonstrate the ability to access valid information, products, and services to enhance health.

Rationale:  Access to valid health information and health-promoting products and services is critical in the prevention, early detection, and treatment of health problems. This standard focuses on how to identify and access valid health resources and to reject unproven sources. Application of the skills of analysis, comparison, and evaluation of health resources empowers students to achieve health literacy.

  •  Interpersonal Communication

Definition:  Students will demonstrate the ability to use interpersonal communication skills to enhance health and avoid or reduce health risks.

Rationale:  Effective communication enhances personal, family, and community health. This standard focuses on how responsible individuals use verbal and non-verbal skills to develop and maintain healthy personal relationships. The ability to organize and to convey information and feelings is the basis for strengthening interpersonal interactions and reducing or avoiding conflict.

  • Decision Making

Definition:  Students will demonstrate the ability to use decision-making skills to enhance health.

Rationale:  Decision-making skills are needed to identify, implement, and sustain health-enhancing behaviors. This standard includes the essential steps that are needed to make healthy decisions as prescribed in the performance indicators. When applied to health issues, the decision-making process enables individuals to collaborate with others to improve their quality of life.

  • Goal Management

Definition:  Students will demonstrate the ability to use goal-setting skills to enhance health.

Rationale:  Goal-setting skills are essential to help students identify, adopt, and maintain healthy behaviors. This standard includes the critical steps that are needed to achieve both short-term and long-term health goals. These skills make it possible for individuals to have aspirations and plans for the future.

  • Health Advocacy

Definition:  Students will demonstrate the ability to advocate for personal, family, and community health.

Rationale:  Advocacy skills help students promote healthy norms and healthy behaviors. This standard helps students develop important skills to target their health-enhancing messages and to encourage others to adopt healthy behaviors.

The 4 overarching content areas are:

1.      Healthy Balance:  With a focus on energy balance, students will learn how to keep themselves properly nourished and energized throughout the day and how to develop personal plans for lasting physical health.

2.      Healthy Lifestyles:  Students will learn about the impact of substance use on individual and family life as they gain the knowledge necessary for making informed choices and learn to meet their own needs without substance use.

 3.      Healthy Body/ Safe Body:  Students will explore information addressing a variety of topics such as disease prevention, violence prevention, puberty, and sexual health.

 4.      Healthy Mind:  Students will gain tools for identifying and coping with difficult emotions, navigating interpersonal conflicts, pursuing healthy relationships, and addressing mental health issues.

 Using a constructivist approaches to engage and empower students, health education will promote healthy norms and values and reinforce positive health behaviors in students. In these ways, health education will strengthen student success in line with the BPS Academic Achievement Frameworks and foster lifelong learning. Towards these ends, the BPS Health and Wellness Department will provide ongoing support and supervision to individual schools and teachers working to implement these Health Education Frameworks.

Click here to access the complete BPS Health Education Frameworks

For more information about Health Education please contact us at 617-635-6643 or by email at