Brittany Rosen, Ph.D, CHES
What guidelines help create an effective health education lesson plan impacting students’ behaviors? My study examined the content of six sexual health lesson plans, found online at the Advocates for Youth website. The lesson plans’ content was assessed using the Health Education Curriculum Analysis Tool (HECAT) created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The HECAT is a tool, with 14 guidelines, helping teachers develop clear and reliable health education lesson plans. Some of the HECAT guidelines include lesson plans with behavioral goals, addressing social pressure, and using strategies to personalize information and involve students. Because of space limitations, only one of the six—which included sexual behaviors, condom use, gender roles, sexual orientation, relationships, and body language communication —will be examined here, the one on gender roles, a subtopic of social, emotional, and physical health. The activity for students is to read seven different case studies related to gender roles. One case study involves a teenage girl buying condoms, but her friend tells her that girls should not buy condoms. The students develop solutions for each case study. Then the teacher and students have an open debate and discussion questions geared towards health-enhancing behaviors for the case studies. This lesson plan allows students to see how gender roles and stereotypes affect youths’ goals, decisions, and relationships.
This lesson plan meets 10 of the 14 HECAT guidelines. Two of the guidelines that the lesson plan meets are 1) addressing social pressure and 2) providing basic health information promoting healthy behaviors. The lesson plan addresses the first guideline because students read case studies with gender role issues and must develop a solution for the issues. The second guideline is met because students must resolve the issue in the case study. Through creating a solution, students can address misperceptions about gender roles and better understand and recognize social norms (i.e., only boys should buy condoms).
Creating effective health education lesson plans is important because a growing body of research suggests that health education highlights useful information to support healthy behaviors. Behaviors impact all aspects of health—physical, emotional, social, intellectual, spiritual, and environmental health—which connect in a way similar to a chain. If one link (or one aspect) of the chain breaks, it affects other aspects of a person’s health. For example, gender roles (sexual health) might impact how a teenage boy feels (emotional health) about trying out for the dance team (physical health).
This article provides some insight into the process of using the HECAT guidelines in evaluating the content in health education lesson plans. There are several different professions that use the HECAT including health education administrators, curriculum supervisors, school-level health education departments, and university health education professionals. If you are interested in learning more about the HECAT then visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website titled Health Education Curriculum Analysis Tool for more information.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009). Health education curriculum analysis tool (HECAT). Retrieved August 14, 2012 from http://www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/HECAT/
- McKenzie, J.F., Pinger, R.R., & Kotecki, J.E. (2012). An introduction to community health (7th ed.). Boston: Jones and Bartlett Publishers. http://www.jblearning.com/catalog/9780763790110/