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Why provide opportunities for body care and physical safety education?

The health and well-being of adolescents and adults is built on their health and wellbeing as children. Access to health care and quality education is essential if children are to enjoy the best possible start in life (Statistics New Zealand, Children: New Zealand Now: 1998 Edition).

The action-oriented approach used in Looking after Ourselves will help children to develop health-promoting practices in their everyday lives.

School health education programmes can help children to relate basic body care practices to health and well-being and so encourage them to develop healthy daily routines.  Lack of personal hygiene is an identified risk factor in contracting communicable diseases (Ministry of Health, Our Children’s Health: Key Findings on the Health of New Zealand Children). Although immunisation and effective treatments for many diseases have meant that New Zealand children are not often exposed to the consequences of poor hygiene practices, it is still important that they develop the skills and knowledge to practise basic body care. Children also need to be able to communicate how they feel when unwell and to know how to care for themselves and for others who may be ill or injured. Managing medication at school may be an issue for children, such as those who have asthma. Self-care education has the potential to improve children’s control of the symptoms of chronic conditions and to reduce the number of hospitalisations and visits to doctors and medical centres (Ministry of Health, Child Health Programme Review).

Effective dental care is essential for health and a sense of self-worth. Poor oral health may disrupt schooling and can lead to problems in eating and talking. Children can gain better oral health through improved knowledge and by developing healthy routines.¹ Schools can also promote oral health by avoiding the use of sweets as rewards and by encouraging healthy choices through their policies for the provision and sale of food (Ministry of Health, Child Health Programme Review).

Physical safety education can lower childhood accident and injury rates. Such education includes teaching strategies for risk management and accident prevention (Ministry of Health, Our Children’s Health: Key Findings on the Health of New Zealand Children). A number of interventions, including traffic education, introducing play-ground equipment standards, and legislation for the use of bicycle helmets and seat belts, have reduced child injuries (Ministry of Health, Child Health Programme Review). Children need knowledge and understanding in order to identify environmental hazards. They also need the skills and opportunities to practise risk management in a variety of settings including home, school, road, bush, and beach environments. 

Effective education about body care and physical safety, then, enables students to make informed decisions that will contribute to their own well-being and that of others.

(1.) The most significant factor in protecting against dental caries is fluoridation of water supplies.