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Health-promoting changes with children as agents: findings from a multiple case study research

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Purpose – With the aim of contributing to the evidence base on school-based health promotion, the authors discuss the outcomes and processes of a European intervention project aiming to prevent obesity among children (4-16 years) and promote their health and well-being, titled Shape Up: a school-community approach to influencing determinants of healthy and balanced growing up.
Design/methodology/approach – Multiple case study research was carried out in five schools in five EU countries. Data sources included project documents, interviews, and observations. Narrative qualitative cross-case analysis was carried out following the single case analyses.
Findings – The study showed that, if given sufficient guidance, pupils can act as agents of health-promoting changes on both school and local community level; they were involved in actions which improved school policies, provisions and affordances for healthier diet and regular physical activity. The study identified three forms of participation, each with a different level of pupil involvement and agency.
Research limitations/implications – The study is qualitative, based on five single cases and cross-case analysis; this research design implies caution related to extensive non-contextualised generalisation of the findings. However, valuable implications for research and practice can be drawn, especially in relation to structural barriers for participatory health promotion.
Originality/value – The paper is of value for researchers as well as practitioners in the field, particularly those interested in eco-social models of health, whole-school approaches to health promotion and pupil participation. The study’s specific value is in the systematic qualitative cross-case analysis, which contributes to the research rigour and allows for situated generalisation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHealth Education
Pages (from-to)292-304
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2012

    Research areas

  • Health Education, Participation, health-promoting schools, Case Study, Social Change, obesity, eating, Sundhedspædagogik, Børnekultur

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