The object of research is to determine how things are as compared to how things might be. Children and young people spend a considerable amount of time between the ages of three and sixteen in school. Therefore, school is a place to send out constant messages on healthy eating. This exploration aims to evaluate health promotion in a primary school. It will focus on the aspect of healthy eating as part of health promotion in schools. The Irish heart foundation (2011) state that one in four primary school children are overweight or obese and this is why this research is relevant. They also state that knowledge on healthy eating can be considered as one of many factors that influence eating habits. This investigation also aims to explore children’s knowledge on healthy eating in line with the curriculum and the Food Standards Agency (equivalent in Ireland). This investigation will show children’s knowledge of healthy eating by conducting a focus group. Adequate nutrition and physical activity in childhood is fundamentally important for growth, development and long-term health in adulthood (Sheppard, 2008).
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The author completed three weeks in a primary school on work experience. The researcher noticed that there was a lack of knowledge on healthy eating and it would be a relevant topic for a dissertation. The researcher asked the children aged eleven and twelve; what vegetables did you eat for dinner yesterday? One of the answers was ‘rice’ which suggested a lack of knowledge of different food groups. Promotion of healthy heating in schools is one of the most important opportunities to ensure that children can choose a healthy diet now and later in life (Health promotion department, 2005). Exploring factors of childhood ability to understand the impact of nutrition will be basis to this study. Evaluating health promotion within the school will also be key. The national council for curriculum and assessment (NCCA) states that Developing health-promoting practices through his/her time in school can encourage the child to take increasing control over his/her own health and help to establish and maintain healthy behaviour from an early age. Healthy eating promotion ought to be taken serious in schools as children and young people are not in school forever and it can have a major impact on their lifestyles. One seeks to find out if the children know what they are eating is healthy and how different foods fall into different food groups. The Irish Heart Foundation (2011) State that maintaining a healthy weight involves balancing the energy taken into the body (food) with the energy used by the body (activity). Energy balance means that the amount of energy consumed is equivalent to the amount of energy expended and there is no storage or depletion of the body’s reserves (Bouchard, 2000). Children should know about good fats and bad fats in food to get a steady energy balance. It has been evidenced through research that following a healthy diet can significantly reduce the perceived health risks amongst children. A healthy diet will positively influence a child’s current and future health status, reducing the risk of many chronic diseases and conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes (The department of Public Health, 2011). Food Standards Agency UK has set out a framework for food competences on core skills and knowledge children for young people. It states that children of a certain age should have certain skills and certain knowledge on nutrition. One will find the equivalent in Ireland and put the selected focus group to the test to see if they have adequate knowledge on healthy eating.
Health Behaviour in school-aged (HBSC, 2006) report has shown that many young people have poor eating habits. Food and drink are a vital part of our daily lives. They play the essential role in the development of the human being (Healthy food for all 2012). For young people to achieve their full potential, it is necessary that they eat healthily. There are many factors that can affect future health status in children and young people. During the mid-1980s the school as a health promoting situation was a somewhat under-developed idea in Ireland. Schools lay the foundations for children to carry lifestyles into adult life. Initially led by the health sector, a partnership approach between health and education has enabled the more widespread acceptance of school-based approaches to health maintenance and improvement (Gabhainn, O’Higgins & Barry 2010). Ireland was one of the first to adopt the Health Promoting Schools (HPS) approach. Schools remain one of the few places where children are reasonably protected for commercial interests. (NCCA) set out the curriculum for primary schools in Ireland in 1999. A compulsory subject known as social, personal and health education (SPHE) was introduced. It is designed to run with the whole school approach to health promotion (Department of education and science, 2000). The curriculum is presented in six subject strands comprising of 11 subjects. One of strands is called (SPHE). SPHE provides particular opportunities to foster the health and well-being of a child. Through the SPHE programme children can develop a sense of personal responsibility for their own health and for the decisions and the choices they make. The Irish Governments National Health Promotion Strategy was set in place between 2000 and 2005. Its aim was for every school to promote healthy eating habits and a healthy body image among school-going children and young people. Every school had to facilitate the implementation of health education and health promotion programs.
Food Dudes is one of the many programs which schools got in partnership with. It was developed by the food & activity research unit at Bangor University, Wales, to encourage children to eat more fruit and vegetables both in school and at home. Eating habits throughout life are established at a young age. Therefore, learning to choose and enjoy different foods in childhood provides the foundation for healthy food choices in childhood (Department of health and children, 2011). As children are in school thirty seven weeks of the year, schools have the potential to play a significant role in promoting healthy eating habits amongst children.
The researcher will use children aged eleven and twelve because they are about to make the transition from primary school to secondary school and as per key stages 2 in Wales and The Food Standards Agency UK, they should have sufficient nutritional knowledge. The researcher will take the approach of a qualitative method. A focus group is a group interview with four to twelve people (O’Leary, 2010). Focus groups will be considered to conduct the investigation. Questionnaires will also be considered but a focus group would get more of and in-depth knowledge from the participants. One of the advantages of a focus group is that it can develop its own dynamics, and will explore an issue with minimum intervention from the researcher (Oliver, 2010). The aim of the focus group is to use rich discussion draw out depth of opinion and knowledge that probably would not occur from direct interviews. Children at the age of eleven and twelve will be selected at random to for the group. The researcher will then ask questions to get an idea of the children’s knowledge for the grounding of the study. Probes will then be used to elaborate on some of the answers. The researcher will stimulate the discussion and will use some food as focus materials to help the group focus on the topic of study. The Meeting will be recorded for further observation. It allows for non verbal as well as verbal data. It deals not with what people say but what they actually do to the extent that their behaviour is open to observation (Gillham, 2008).
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The researcher will collect data by taking records. One will also observe and analyse the recorded video of the session. First of all, the recorded text will have to be read. Secondly, the researcher will watch and listen to the tape recording many times. As the researcher observes the tape one will make note of any impressions that maybe useful at a later stage. One will focus on the information given in many ways as there will be different individual or group reaction on different questions and topics. The data will be organised by question to look across all answers so the researcher can identify consistencies and differences. All data from each question will be put together. The researcher will set specific categories in advance and then observe for the data in these categories. The categories should provide a path on where the researcher wants to go. Connections between the categories and within the categories should start to take place. One will count how many times a topic comes up as this should show which categories are the most important. With this all done the researcher will use topics and connections to explain findings. A hard copy and an electronic copy of all information will be kept. By having an electronic copy, text can be moved around very easy and one may wish to copy information onto excel for tables for example.