OBJECTIVES: The aim was to analyse if young students could be substantive participants in a health-promoting school project. The specific aims were to analyse the changes the students proposed in their school environment, how these changes were prioritized by a school health committee and to discuss the students' proposals and the changes from a health and gender perspective.
STUDY DESIGN: An intervention project was carried out in an elementary school with students (about 150) in Grades 1 through 6. The intervention included small-group discussions about health promoting factors, following a health education model referred to as "It's your decision." At the last of 6 discussions, the students made suggestions for health-promoting changes in their school environment. A health committee was established with students and staff for the purpose of initiating changes based on the proposals.
METHODS: A content analysis was used to analyse the proposals and the protocols developed by the health committee.
RESULTS: The analysis showed 6 categories of the students' proposals: social climate, influence on schoolwork, structure and orderliness, security, physical environment and food for well-being. Their priorities corresponded to the students' categories, but had an additional category regarding health education.
CONCLUSIONS: Principles that guide promoting good health in schools can be put into action among students as young as those in Grades 1 through 6. Future challenges include how to convey experiences and knowledge to other schools and how to evaluate if inequalities in health because of gender, class and ethnicity can be reduced through the focus on empowerment and participation.
2009. Vol. 68, no 5, 498-507 p.