Health Educators Learning Online


The Health Educators Learning Online (HELO) Project is a collaboration between the New York State Department of Education, The School of Education at the University at Albany, The SUNY Learning Network, organizations supporting open educational resources (such as and Health Educators across NYS with help and guidance from leaders in NYSPHERD and elsewhere. The five-year overarching goal of this project is to create a portfolio of online resources and interaction opportunities that contribute to the professional development of health educators across the New York State. Targeting pre-service and in-service health teachers including elementary teachers who teach health-related topics, the online environment created through this project will support both formal professional development and informal ongoing learning. Throughout the project we also intend to involve graduate students in research on professional development, online learning, and the effectiveness of online materials in fostering better understanding of health. As a research institution we see this project as an incubator for ideas, hypotheses and systematic inquiry about how people learn in technology mediated environments.

As part of the HELO project, we will engage students in ETAP 623 (Systematic Design of Instruction)--HELO Fellows in particular--to work collaboratively to design and develop wiki-based mini-courses to support professional learning of health educators.

Group Members

HELO Fellows, please add your name to this list: HELO Fellows

Creation of Wiki-Based Mini-Courses

A Review of Health Education in NYS and Beyond

A Review of Health Education in NYS and Beyond

Challenges facing health educators, strategies and the support HELO can offer


Professional development and support

Pedagogical challenges

Lack of research resource in supporting health instruction

School support and community support

Adaptation to the integration of technology in classroom

Community/social connection and engagement

Policy environment

· Elementary school, middle and high school health teachers’ lack of professional preparation in health education;(Fetro, 2010; McDermott, 2011; McCaughtry, 2011; Deal, Jenkins, Deal & Byra, 2010)

“Elementary classroom teachers must overcome a number of instructional barriers, including time constraints and professional preparation, if they are to deliver effective health education and enhance health literacy among youth.” (Deal, Jenkins, Deal & Byra, 2010, p155)

“Only 13% of elementary teachers and 37% of middle and high school teachers had any professional preparation in health education.”(Fetro, 2010, p261) Efforts need to be made on expanding professional preparation in health education, to “ensure that those individuals teaching health education majors are up-to-date with ‘best practice’ and are knowledgeable about resources at the national level.” (p263)

“Nearly no universities give any pedagogical training to elementary teachers bin the delivery of health education.” (McDermott, 2011, p339)

“[Health] teachers often have little if any pre-service training in teaching nutrition, lack updated resources and are given woefully little professional development to update their nutrition education skills.” (McCaughtry, 2011, p283)

“Inadequate pre-service coursework and in-service training opportunities in health education are additional barriers that contribute to the lack of implementation of health instruction in the elementary classroom.” Deal, Jenkins, Deal & Byra, 2010, p156)

· Weak specialized preparation of teachers with a combined major in health and physical education; (McDermott, 2011; McCaughtry, 2011; Deal & Hodges)

“University and college teacher preparation programs have been criticized for the apparent disconnect between coursework an practical applications.” (Deal & Hodges , p3)

· Ineffective teaching methodology; (Lohrmann, 2011; McCaughtry, 2011; Hochbaum, 2010;)

“In short, we give him (student) additional health knowledge, but may fail to help him make sound and consistent choices in his health behavior.” (Hochbaum, 2010, p131)

“I am also sure that the teacher cannot do it (health education) by himself. He must actively involve children themselves in the process. Discussions among them, skillfully guided by the teacher, are probably more effective than any lecturing and reading.” (Hochbaum, 2010, p131)

· Lack of a health education professional community in which health educators support themselves and share their voice; (Lohrmann, 2011, McCaughtry, 2011; Steele, 2011)

Health educators also want to realize that they are not alone and they should not just think of working on their own. They have to learn to collaborate and share. (Lohrmann, 2011)

“The [health education] profession needs to be of one voice and advocate as one for K-12 health education.” (McCaughtry, 2011, p348)

“…school health education (and health education in general) must find ways of providing an integrated view of health and health behavior and unifying principles and purposes.” (Hochbaum, 2010, p131)

“Collaboration with parents, teachers and staff in the school, and other related professionals in the community is another way to emphasize fitness for students. If the United States is to improve in the health and fitness levels for individual and public health perspectives, it is important for all the related specialists to work together.” (Steele, 2011, p74)

· Inadequate classroom facilities and lack of high quality instructional materials; (McCaughtry, 2011; McDermott, 2011; Steele, 2011)

“High school teachers can collaborate with librarians to ensure that books and magazines that relate to fitness are available and perhaps on display.” (Steele, 2011, p74)

· Health education in schools does not get equal attention and recognition for its importance as other subjects such as math and language arts do; (Lohrmann, 2011, McCaughtry, 2011; Deal, Jenkins, Deal & Byra, 2010; Inman, van Bakergem, etal, 2011)

“To this day, health education and physical education are the only areas that are not named as school subjects by the U.S. Department of Education and do not receive financial support for developing and refining their standards.” (Lohrmann, 2011, p260)

“A recent study noted that limited exercise in school-aged children is associated with poorer performance on standardized test scores…Despite the importance of obesity prevention, there is currently a lack of evidence-based programs available for implementation.” (Inman, van Bakergem, etal, 2011, p214)

“Supporting emotional health for children is critical in promoting academic and lifetime success.” (Inman, van Bakergem, etal, 2011, p210)

· Most current health teachers are not good at implementing digital resources into their health teaching; (Fetro, 2010; Lohrmann, 2011)

· Lack of support from school administration levels (Valois, Zullig, Young & Kammermann, 2010; Inman, van Bakergem, etal, 2011)

“We have made progress in developing the concept of coordinated school health promotion, but few schools or school districts have sustained large-scale effort.” (Valois, Zullig, Young & Kammermann, 2010, p136)

“Collaboration between health professionals and schools is an important element for improving school-based health programs.” (Inman, van Bakergem, etal, 2011, p209)

· Updated, high, multi-dimensional expectations of health literacy and education; (Fetro, 2010; Lohrmann, 2011; McDermott, 2011)

“To help children and youth become health literate through participation in cutting-edge, high-quality, fulfilling and rewarding health education provided in ways that are consistent with how they play, learn and work.” (Lohrmann, 2011, p268)

“Future health education professionals need to be well prepared and actively practice dynamic leadership in articulating what they are teaching and why they are teaching it.” (McDermott, 2011,p343)

· Limited teaching time, and competition with other school subjects; (Fetro, 2010; McDermott, 2011; Lohrmann, 2011; Deal, Jenkins, Deal & Byra, 2010)

“Whereas the hours devoted to each health topics are reported per year, the typical elementary school includes two hours of language arts, one hour of math, one-half hour of social studies and one-half hour of science instruction every day.” (Lohrmann, 2011, p260-261)

“At the elementary level, most states (70.6%) reported they have adopted goals, objectives or expected outcomes for school health education, but only 19.6% had enacted specific time requirements for health instruction. Without such a mandate, the elementary curriculum may be narrowed to align with subjects that are included in high stakes testing. ” (Deal, Jenkins, Deal & Byra, 2010, p155-156)

· Health teachers (digital immigrants) lacks understanding of the learning needs of new generation of students who are digital native; (outstanding new learning needs: media literacy) (Fetro, 2010; Lohrmann, 2011)

Health educators have to adapt their teaching strategies for delivering health-promoting messages in this digital world. (Fetro, 2010)

· Needs to learn new pedagogy (constructivist) and apply to classroom teaching; (Lohrmann, 2011; McCaughtry, 2011)

· Parental and community opposition to controversial health areas, lack of family support to reinforce good health habits;

· Student disinterests. (Fetro, 2010; McDermott, 2011; Valois, Zullig, Young & Kammermann, 2010)

“Do health educators truly understand the national health education standards and know how our current educational strategies need to change so that youth with diverse learning styles and multiple intelligences can become health literate?” (Fetro, 2010, p259)

“In turn, students in school often find health education meaningless and abstract.” (Valois, Zullig, Young & Kammermann, 2010, p135)


           Increase requirements for pre-service and in-service training
           Establish professional community for supporting interprofessional dialogues
           Promote undergraduate and graduate education in health education majors
           Implement effective teaching pedagogies into classroom
           Promote the use of technology in facilitating health instruction

· Health teachers should have access to current literature to keep up with “best practice” and up-to-date with resources in health education; (Fetro, 2010; McDermott, 2011, McCaughtry, 2011)

“…other educational subject areas such as math and PE have fairly extensive literature on teachers’ professional development, teacher change, and program reform, while health education lacks such a well-developed literature base.” (McCaughtry, 2011, p283)

· Expand professional preparation in health education; (Fetro, 2010; McDermott, 2011, McCaughtry, 2011, Lohrmann, 2011)

“When teachers do receive training, either in specific health content or in a comprehensive curriculum, significant changes can be seen in their health knowledge, self-efficacy to teach health, feelings of preparedness and amount of content taught.” (Deal, Jenkins, Deal & Byra, 2010, p156)

“Previous research has shown that only a small percentage of classroom teachers feel prepared to teach health education, but professional development can improve teachers’ self-efficacy and confidence to teach health education.” (Deal, Jenkins, Deal & Byra, 2010, p160)

· Using strategies to integrate the National Health Education Standards (NHES) into curriculum, instruction, and assessment in health education; (Jensen, Tappe, Telljohann, & Wilbur, 2009)

“Classroom teachers, health education teachers and school administrators…need professional development to: understand the characteristics of effective health education curricula; understand the NHES performance indicators; align curricula, instruction and assessments with the NHES and performance indicators; map curricula within and between grades to ensure coverage of the NHES and performance indicators.” (Jensen, Tappe, Telljohann, & Wilbur, 2009, p252)

· Integrating health education with other subjects to promote health instruction; ( Deal, Jenkins, Deal & Byra, 2010; Deal & Hodges)

“It is vital that we find ways to embed health education in professional development for core curriculum subjects like reading and writing. Integration may be a key to overcoming some of the factors teachers report as barriers to teaching health education.” (Deal, Jenkins, Deal & Byra, 2010, p164)

“An alternative to this approach is to teach across the curriculum so that students are not denied the opportunity to make healthy choices about behaviors that can affect their health and academic success.” (Deal, Jenkins, Deal & Byra, 2010, p156)

“Increased capacity to integrate health and languages arts was consistently reported.” (Deal, Jenkins, Deal & Byra, 2010, p160)

“Dr. Rimma Rudd…contends that health literacy includes basic literacy skills related to reading, writing, speaking, and listening; basic mathematical skills; and conceptual knowledge skills.” (Deal & Hodges, p1)

· Promote the importance of health education; (Fetro, 2010; Lohrmann, 2011; McDermott, 2011; Deal, Jenkins, Deal & Byra, 2010; Inman, van Bakergem, etal,2011)

“Our efforts must focus on making that connection and sharing the research that shows that health education makes a difference in academic success.” (Fetro, 2010, p262)

“There are four strategies outlined by the WHO’s Global School Helath Initiative to increase the number of health promoting schools. First, use research to improve school health programs. Second, build capacity to advocate for improved health programs. Third, strengthen national capacities. Finally, create networks and alliances for the development of health-promoting schools. ” (Inman, van Bakergem, etal, 2011, p209)

· Health educators learn to adapt their teaching strategies for delivering health-promoting messages in this digital world; (Fetro, 2010; Lohrmann, 2011)

· Collecting and sharing of quality instructional materials for health instruction; (Deal & Hodges, p3)

“Many children’s books contain authentic context and could be used to support the development of basic reading, writing, and health literacy.”

· Teaching methodology changes to provide active and skill-based health instruction; (Lohrmann, 2011; McCaughtry, 2011)

· Health educators design and implement health education differently based on the new understanding and new characteristics of today’s learners; (Fetro, 2010; McDermott, 2011, McCaughtry, 2011, Lohrmann, 2011)

“If youth spend hours on end on cell phones, can we send health messages to their cell phones that will spark health literacy?” (Fetro, 2010, p263)

Teachers should teach media literacy as part of health education curriculum. (Lohrmann, 2011)

· Teacher development, sharing, and learning; (Lohrmann, 2011, McCaughtry, 2011)

· Technology integration; (Fetro, 2010; McDermott, 2011, McCaughtry, 2011, Lohrmann, 2011)

· Cross-subject connection and integration; (Fetro, 2010; McDermott, 2011, Lohrmann, 2011)

“Assist elementary teachers so they can appropriately integrate health concepts within math, science, language arts, social studies and other subjects.” (Fetro, 2010, p263)

· Community building/partnerships/collaboration: Make health education beyond a single subject. (Fetro, 2010; McDermott, 2011, McCaughtry, 2011, Lohrmann, 2011)

How HELO will provide needed support

· Provide health education professional development opportunities;

· Provide health education major or minors degree opportunities for health teachers;

· Establish health education professional community for health teachers;

· Provide up-to-date health education literature and education resources;

· Share research studies and promote the importance of health education and its impact on students’ growth and academic success to the public;

· Provide a platform to encourage health educators to share their successes and challenges;

· Share, collect, and promote new teaching strategies and methods that promote the use of digital resources for health teaching;

· Share, collect and promote effective teaching methodologies and strategies;

· Promote media literacy in health education;

· Promote new ways of teaching health in schools that incorporate medial literacy and serious video games plus other technologies;

· Provide teacher learning opportunities such as workshop, mentoring and resources


Fetro, J. V. (Sept./Oct. 2010). Health-Literate Youth: Evolving Challenges for Health Educators. American Journal of Health Education, 41, 5, 258-264.

Lohrmann, D. K. (Sept./Oct. 2011). Thinking of a Change: Health Education for the 2020 Generation. American Journal of Health Education, Vol. 42, No. 5, 258-269

McCaughtry, N., Fahlman, M., Martin, J. J., & & She, B. (Sept./Oct. 2011). Influences of Constructivist-Oriented Nutrition Education on Urban Middle School Students' Nutrition Knowledge, Self-efficacy, and Behaviors. American Journal of health Education, Vol. 42, No. 5, 276-285.

McDermott, R. J., Mayer, A. B., & Group, &. T. (Nov./Dec. 2011). The School Health Education Study + 50 Years: Scholars' Reflections on its Impact and Legacy. American Journal of Health Education, 42, 6, 330-348.

Deal, T.B., Jenkins, J.M., Deal, L.O., Byra, A. The Impact of Professional Development to Infuse Health and Reading in Elementary Schools. American Journal of Health Education. May/Jun 2010; 41, 3; 155-166.

Hochbaum, Godfrey M. Changing Health Behavior in Youth. American Journal of Health Education, (May/June 2010). Vol.41, No. 3; 130-133.

Jensen, M.J., Tappe, M.J., Telljohann, S.K. Wilbur, K.M. Articulation of the National Health Education Standards to support learning and healthy behaviors among students. American Journal of Health Education. 40.4, (July-August 2009) p245.

Valois, Robert F; Zullig, Keith J; Young, Michael & Kammermann, Sandra K. Changing Health Behavior in Youth: Plus 40 Years. American Journal of Health Education, May/June 2010. 41, 3; 134-138.

Inman, D.D., van Bakergem, K.M., etal. Evidence-Based Health Promotion Programs for Schools and Communities. Am J Prev Med. (2011); 40(2): 207-219.

Shroff, Monal R.; Jones, Sonya J.; Frongillo, Edward A.; Howlett, Michael. Policy Instruments Used by States Seeking to Improve School Food Environments. American Journal of Public Health, Feb2012, Vol. 102 Issue 2, p222-229, 8p, 3 Charts; DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.2011.300338

Steele, Marcee M. Health and Fitness: An Issue for High School Teachers and Students. Clearing House, Mar2011, Vol. 84 Issue 2, p72-74, 3p; DOI: 10.1080/00098655.2010.516778

Hutchison, Amy; Colwell, Jamie. Using a wiki to facilitate an online professional learning community for induction and mentoring teachers. Education and Information Technologies17. 3 (Sep 2012): 273-289.

Deal, T. B., & Hodges, B. (n.d.). Role of 21st century schools in promoting health literacy. Retrieved from HE Standards/BenhamDeal-Hodges Paper on Health LIteracy in 21st Century Schools.pdf

Meckler TA, Vogler JD. Reading improvement through health instruction. Educ Leadersh. 1985;42(5):50-52.