With the adoption of the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion in 1986, the World Health Organization (WHO) recognized that the competencies enabling choices conducive to health must be acquired at the start of schooling. More specifically, numerous authors agree that the school plays a decisive role in developing healthy lifestyles in children, since the habits acquired at a young age often dictate their conduct as adults (Hopper, Munoz, Gruber, & Nguyen, 2005; Rivard & Trudeau, 2006; Virgilio, 1996). Accordingly, the revision of school curricula begun in many countries during the 1990s led to a component that targeted health (Puhse & Gerber, 2005). In 2004, WHO reaffirmed the importance of health in the school setting, with particular emphasis on the promotion of healthy lifestyles:
[...] schools influence the lives of most children. They should protect the health of children by informing them, by teaching them the basics of health and by promoting a healthy diet and exercise along with other healthy behaviours. (p. 18).
1.1 Health education
The guidelines issued by the International Union for Health Promotion and Education [IUHPE] (2008) indicate what is expected of the school in terms of health education. Of these, the following are particularly worth noting: 1) promotes students’ health and well-being; 2) integrates health into the school’s ongoing activities, curriculum, and assessment standards; 3) addresses the health and well-being of the school staff as a whole, and 4) collaborates with parents and the local community. Many researchers concur, since they maintain that health education is not up to the school alone, but is a responsibility that must be shared equally with the families and community. As a result, various stakeholders are being increasingly called upon to participate in school health education activities (Bizzoni-Prévieux, Mérini, Otis, Jourdan, & Grenier, 2011; Deschenes, Trudeau, & Kébé, 2009). The recent work by Bizzoni-Prévieux et al. (2011), conducted in France and Quebec, examines partnership from the angle of teachers’ collective work in health education. The school may be the first to motivate collective action, but there are outside participants as well, in this case, the parents, who now find themselves increasingly petitioned in Quebec. Parents are considered key actors – front-line partners even – in the school success of children and teens (Deslandes, 2005; Martin & Arcand, 2005) as well as in health education (Beaudoin, 2010; Ma & Zhang, 2002; Mérini, 2010).
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(Author: Marie-Claude Rivard, Sylvain Turcotte