Case Studies in Global School Health Promotion: From Research to Practice, Edited by Cheryl Vince Whitman and Carmen E. Aldinger

School Health Promotion: Achieved Through Different Paths

Book Review by Emily Fisher

This dense book is packed with case studies highlighting perspectives and experiences of the process varying communities undertook to create and sustain health promoting schools all over the globe. Careful editing and arranging allowed for the reader to successfully learn from the findings instead of being overwhelmed by the wealth of information presented. The book’s editors developed a way of analyzing the cases which enabled the reader to have an overall framework in mind when reading the cases and thinking about how to apply the lessons. The editors used the first section to outline their method of analysis and illustrate what the reader could walk away with. This data was structured using “The Wheel of Factors Influencing Implementation of Policy and Practice,” a tool developed by one of the editors based on an extensive literature review and years of practical experience. This section was followed by sections broken into geographic regions, with case studies written by case study members of the various schools. While each case was valuable in and of itself, the editor’s opening perspective helped to link these cases to a broader system that could enable the reader to apply relevant lessons in their particular setting.

One of my favorite cases was unique, a definite contrast to my own education experience. The case was from the Cook Islands: the authors illustrated the importance of and means to adapting interventions so they are culturally relevant and therefore also effective and sustainable. They used the basic framework of the WHO definition of well-being as a foundation, but adapted it visually and represented it as a “Vaka” or the Cook Islanders’ traditional method of boat transportation. Each key part of the Vaka was used to illustrate a key element needed to ensure an individual’s well-being. Their use of an item familiar to their community members, but adapted to be useful in depicting factors key to well-being, was creative and thought-provoking to myself as a reader.

At the IUHPE World Conference I had the opportunity to attend workshop around the book’s case studies and witness many of the case authors from different regions present. Hearing them describe their individual school’s process and outcomes was inspirational and gave the kind of motivation and insight that is often needed to carry projects like these forward in new contexts. As you will realize if you read the book for yourself, each school has a unique set of challenges and resources with which to address those challenges: they have also each chosen to focus on different elements of what comprises the concept of health. The model the authors used to illustrate major commonalities across these is important, and I would love to see it further developed and used as an evaluation tool. For example, a question not deeply addressed by the book, but one I would be curious about, is: do some regions have more in common with a few of these themes than others? If so, why? As a next step, I would also like to see children more involved in the writing of the health promoting school cases studies: what are their perspectives, how does this improve their school, what will they take away from the process?

It was made clear to me through my IUHPE Conference interactions and my reading that the real experiences described in this book should be used as valuable resources. Using this book as an opportunity to “collaborate” on an international level around school health promotion best practices, challenges and innovation seems to me, to be the only way to truly fulfill the health promoting schools concept on a global scale. And it could also be pretty fun!

Visit the Schools for Health in Europe website for more information on Health Promoting Schools around Europe: http://www.schoolsforhealth.eu/

Review Published: November 2010

To read more about this book review’s author, visit her Bio.

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