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School‐based health education strategies for the improvement of body image and prevention of eating problems: An overview of safe and successful interventions

Jennifer A. O'Dea (Faculty of Education, University of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia)

Health Education

ISSN: 0965-4283

Article publication date: 1 February 2005

13376

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to review current programmes and major issues surrounding preventive interventions for body image and obesity in schools.

Design/methodology/approach

A literature review was carried out by analysing papers cited in major literature databases from the last 50 years. This review describes and summarises activities from body image programmes and eating disorder prevention programmes in schools and outlines self esteem and media literacy approaches that have produced positive results in some large, randomised and controlled interventions.

Findings

A total of 21 programmes met the inclusion criteria. Of these, four included males and 17 reported at least one improvement in knowledge, beliefs, attitudes or behaviours. The most effective programmes were interactive, involved parents, built self esteem and provided media literacy.

Practical implications

Body image concerns, eating problems and obesity among children and adolescents are becoming increasingly targeted for preventive health education and health promotion programmes. The role of health educators is complicated because of legitimate concerns that we must “do no harm” in our efforts to ameliorate both issues in schools. Health educators need to be careful to ensure that the implementation of programmes for the prevention of child obesity do not inadvertently create food concerns, body image issues, weight stigma, prejudice or eating disorders. Similarly, eating disorder prevention programmes must take care both not to condone obesity nor to glamorise or normalise dieting or disordered eating.

Originality/value

This paper provides health educators with an overview of important issues and suitable strategies to consider when implementing programmes for body image improvement and the prevention of eating problems and childhood obesity.

Keywords

Citation

O'Dea, J.A. (2005), "School‐based health education strategies for the improvement of body image and prevention of eating problems: An overview of safe and successful interventions", Health Education, Vol. 105 No. 1, pp. 11-33. https://doi.org/10.1108/09654280510572277

Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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