Health is the most basic requirement for us to carry out any function – whether it is an internal function of the human body or an external one carried out by humans. We need and strive for good health in order to lead a good life. For this, we need nutritious food, clean water and air, safe shelter, meaningful work, a sense of family or community, proper exercise and adequate rest, on a daily basis. The World Health Organization defines human health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” This definition hints at the need for all of the above factors and more, for the health of our body, mind and spirit.
This project aims to provide a holistic understanding of health for primary, secondary and high school levels. Five sessions or days should be scheduled for discussions on the following topics. The class teacher could moderate these sessions with assistance from teachers of other subjects, if required.
Health versus wellness
Ask students what health means, hinting at the differences between good and bad health. Differentiate between illness and disease (often caused by the contamination of our air, water and food) and injury and accident. Can health include emotional and mental aspects? (Keep in mind WHO’s definition of health.)
Wellness, on the other hand, is the answer or a conscious effort towards a healthy life. As young individuals, what do they need to live a healthy life? Is playing a sport regularly enough or do they need to do more? What are the risks that modern, urban lifestyles have created for health and wellness? Can these be differentiated into physical, emotional and mental factors?
Explain the rise in popularity in some practises like yoga and meditation, recycling and reusing, growing and gardening, reducing and composting, among adults. Can these be thought of as adult hobbies? Ask students if they think hobbies are important. Why do we say ‘invest’ time with hobbies, rather than ‘spend’ time?
In pursuit of better health
This session could be made more interesting with inputs from teachers of mathematics and science. It could be divided into two sessions.
Teachers of both subjects could take turns to explain nutrition. What are some essential nutrients a human being needs? (Proteins, vitamins, carbohydrates, minerals, fats and water) The mathematics teacher could assist in demonstrating and explaining the importance of balance. What happens if we consume one nutrient more than another? Introduce the concept of calories. Does a cheeseburger have the same amount of calories and quality of nutrients as a salad? What happens if you add too much dressing to a salad?
For higher classes, further classification of the nutrients could be done. Students could be asked the difference between trans fats and healthy fats, obesity and malnutrition. The calculation of Body-Mass Index (BMI) could show how numbers play a role in understanding health.
Once students express an understanding of the elements of the food they eat, they should be asked about the sources of their food. This session could be presented as a survey.
The teachers could prepare the questions beforehand and give printed copies to the students.
What is the indicator of ‘quality’ in our food or water? Where is it grown or bred? How is it manufactured and by whom? Can animals have illnesses or diseases just like humans? What happens to us if we eat an animal that was sick before it was killed (refer to the frequent occurrences of bird flu)?
Teachers should assist students in finding the answers to these questions, while discussing the arguments against the use of pesticides and their relation to a rise in organic farming.
The author is a freelance Content Creator, living in Bengaluru. She is a post graduate in communication and has previously worked in children’s academic publishing. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.