Citizenship, Health Education and the Obesity ‘Crisis’

  • Emma Rawlins School of Geography, University of Leeds
Keywords: healthy citizen, child obesity, health education, lifestyle, eating, physical activity, citizenship, , obesity

Abstract

This paper considers how conceptions of citizenship in Britain are linked to the notion of being a healthy citizen. In light of the current childhood obesity ‘crisis’ the delivery of health education messages is seen to be extremely important. In particular, the implicit theme of these messages is that being a ‘good’ citizen means making the ‘right’ choices when it comes to lifestyle decisions such as eating and physical activity practices. This study focuses on how these messages are delivered in school, and crucially how these messages are interpreted and followed (or not) by pupils. The research involved work in a secondary school in a northern city in the UK, in addition to in depth research carried out with eight families. The findings suggest that the influences on children’s lifestyle choices vary across the key spaces of childhood: the home, the school and the peer/community spaces (Holloway and Valentine, 2000). The paper concludes by highlighting the weaknesses of current health education messages that are aimed at the individual. These messages do not consider the interspatial nature of eating and physical activity practices and will not be as effective as those aimed at the family, school and wider community.
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