The health and wellbeing of children are seen as the highest priority in the United Kingdom and the vast majority of countries in the world. According to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), every child has the right to access health services needed to ensure their health and wellbeing (United Nations Children’s Fund [UNICEF], n.d.). Various policies and measures have been implemented to safeguard and improve the wellbeing of as many young people as possible. In order to evaluate the effectiveness of this effort, it is first necessary to define wellbeing and health. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” (Huber et al., 2011, p. 1). At that, this definition has seen a considerable degree of criticism due to its vagueness and the existence of several interpretations of some terms, such as “complete” (Huber et al., 2011, p. 1). Importantly, researchers still concentrate on a set of elements accepted as universal globally: physical and mental health, as well as social wellbeing.
These three components are present in all definitions and perspectives of child health and wellbeing. According to the UNCRC, child wellbeing and health encompasses such elements as zero infant and child mortality, absence of malnutrition and any disease, proper physical activity, as well as education facilitating healthy behaviors development (UNICEF, n.d.). Health and wellbeing are regarded as interrelated concepts in the United Kingdom, so the government sets a goal to ensure child wellbeing and health (Tisdall, 2015). This holistic perspective is accepted as a basis for the creation of standards and measures to develop the healthcare and educational systems, as well as other public services. The UK approach to child health and wellbeing involves the identification of all the indicators to be addressed. These indicators include physical, mental, and emotional balance, a proper social environment for sustainable child development that is evidence-based.
The effort to improve children’s health and wellbeing is an important responsibility of any government as it is instrumental in building a strong and competitive nation. Children who develop properly and achieve their highest potential contribute to the growth of their communities by offering solutions to the urgent issues humanity has to address. At the same time, disease and inappropriate environment prevent children from contributing to the development of the country. For instance, approximately 30% of children aged six years old are obese, which is associated with health issues in their further life, including cardiovascular problems (Public Health England, 2021). This report dwells upon child health and wellbeing from different perspectives, including historical, theoretical, and health promotion, with a focus on a particular health promotion program related to healthy eating.
Historical Perspective of Health and Wellbeing
It is noteworthy that the views regarding health and wellbeing have evolved during the past decades and centuries. For instance, in the nineteenth century, a healthy child was the one who had good physical health, was active, and was a good Christian (Hendrick, 2003). The link between the body and mind was not widely explored, and quite first steps in the field of psychology as related to people’s health and wellbeing were undertaken. The major focus was on physiology as the area that can provide all the necessary answers concerning people’s (and children’s) health. The shift towards the acknowledgment of the role mental health plays in child health and wellbeing started at the end of the nineteenth century (Hendrick, 2003). Paying proper attention to psychological aspects became a norm in the inter-war period when children with diverse traumas were treated.
Numerous discoveries related to the link between mental and physical health were made in the first part of the twentieth century when such concepts as victims and threats were introduced. Both types of children were mentally unhealthy, which was seen as the reason for their further health issues and behavioral problems (Hendrick, 2003). Researchers and practitioners acknowledged that a direct link between mental health and people’s physical state shapes the way people behave and develop corresponding lifestyles. At that period, an image of a healthy child was associated with a child with no physical or mental abnormalities. It is important to add that prior, to that period children had been regarded as passive recipients of care with no voice (Hendrick, 2003). In the first part of the twentieth century, practitioners and researchers questioned this approach as they managed to explore mental health issues and the peculiarities of people’s development when analyzing children’s health problems. Although children remained passive recipients of care, they received an opportunity to voice their issues and needs.
Later, more determinants of health and wellbeing were identified, and these concepts were expanded in the second part of the twentieth century. Researchers explored the exact influence of diverse social aspects on people’s health. These social factors included but were not confined to communities and neighborhoods, nutrition and physical activity, educational settings, and health care accessibility. In addition, the availability of various programs to facilitate sustainable development of a person, as well as existing legislation, was also regarded as influential determinants of health. This perspective is prevalent at present as well, which has an effect on the efforts made by governments and international institutions.
When discussing social determinants of health, it is necessary to consider the so-called McKeown thesis developed in the 1980s. Thomas McKeown, a demographic historian and physician, examined the demographic changes that took place since the 1700s. The researcher developed his McKeown thesis explaining the unprecedented growth of the human population during the past centuries (Hendrick, 2003). The researcher stressed that some targeted interventions were much less effective and influential compared to the general economic growth and the shifts in standards of living. McKeown argued that nutrition, improved sanitary norms, and better neighborhoods made it possible for humanity to flourish demographically. The researcher’s thesis evoked a considerable amount of criticism as the claims regarding the ineffectiveness of such measures as vaccination have been seen as controversial. At the same time, it is also accepted that the social determinants of health identified by McKeown play an important role in public health and affect people’s health and wellbeing. It is a widely accepted fact that nutrition and high living standards ensure people’s health and enable individuals to live better lives.
Finally, the modern perspective of child health and wellbeing is associated with a certain degree of empowerment of children. At present, children are not mere recipients of care who have no voice. They are steadily becoming agents who influence the healthcare system and the overall approach to health. Clearly, children do not have the right to make decisions regarding their health as they are still seen as lacking knowledge and proper understanding regarding their health status. Nevertheless, children are now able to express their concerns and needs, and these voices are heard. Healthcare systems are now undergoing transformations based on the needs described by little patients. It is noteworthy that this shift is rather slow, and many practitioners and researchers, as well as policymakers, still consider children as passive recipients of services.
The overall perceptions of health and wellbeing that emerged at different periods were associated with the creation of diverse theoretical perspectives guiding further evolvement of ideas and approaches. Thus, the major models of health that have been developed throughout the centuries include medical, holistic, and wellness. Different combinations of the elements of all these models are present in the vast majority of healthcare systems across the globe. Each of these models can be beneficial under certain conditions, but none of them should become the prevalent approach.
The medical model is mainly concerned with physical state and mental health. The focus is on clinical procedures and medical interventions that target particular health issues. This approach can be effective in diverse situations, such as treating acute conditions, addressing the issues related to pandemics, and so on. The holistic model is now widely accepted as a central paradigm and is reflected in the WHO’s definition of health mentioned above. Health is seen as a combination of physical and mental health, as well as the social wellbeing of people (Huber et al., 2011). Addressing mental health issues and ensuring proper living conditions have become important components of health care. Governments invest considerable funds into the improvement of these elements.
Finally, the wellness model is associated with a shift from viewing health as a state towards seeing it as a dynamic process that implies the achievement of goals and satisfaction of needs. Health and wellbeing are not confined to being physically and mentally healthy or living in appropriate environments. Self-realization is regarded as a central point or rather a core of people’s health and wellbeing. Thus, governments and international institutions try to follow this model in many areas, helping different groups of people to realize their full potential, which is the basis of their wellbeing and health.
The achievement of the balance between depth and breadth is another important goal established by individuals, organizations, governments, and institutions. Researchers try to address various issues to treat and prevent disease, which means that an in-depth analysis of every state and condition is needed. At the same time, public health, which is the ground for the sustainable development of any country, can be ensured if general trends and larger phenomena are analyzed in detail. Therefore, scientists and other stakeholders have to strive for the balance between depth and breadth when addressing various complex issues related to health and wellbeing.
The search for the balance between the breadth and depth of research and practical effort was facilitated in the second part of the twentieth century. This was the beginning of the period of post-structuralism that questioned the materialism of the previous era (Fox, 2015). Uncertainty and reflection have become the acknowledged and accepted peculiarities of modern society. Health and wellbeing are regarded as attainable goals that require a holistic approach and collaboration (and empowerment) of different stakeholders. Post-structuralism made it possible for children’s voices to be heard, which affected the way their health and wellbeing are seen now. Constant reflection on ways to define and improve health and wellbeing is instrumental in making societies healthier.
Thus, children in developed countries and many developing states enjoy many rights, including the right to health and wellbeing. Millions of children across the globe have access to high-quality services in such spheres as health care and education (Tisdall, 2015). Governments and non-governmental organizations make a lot of effort to make sure that the needs of children are met through the enactment of diverse acts and regulations. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) can be seen as an example of such standards and legislative means to ensure children’s health and wellbeing worldwide. Nevertheless, various gaps still persist, and millions of children, especially those living in the developing world, but also those who live in developed countries, are unable to exercise their rights to the fullest.
Health promotion is one of the most important elements of the healthcare system in any country, as well as the effort made by international institutions. Health promotion is a set of measures aimed at educating people about and encouraging them to adopt healthy lifestyles (Tisdall, 2015). Healthy dieting and the necessary amount of physical activity are the central elements of healthy lifestyles. People who are aware of the way to live healthy lives and the benefits of such health-related choices are likely to adopt proper behavioral patterns, which will inevitably lead to the improvement of their health and wellbeing. Healthy people who are satisfied with the social contexts they live in are willing to contribute to the development of societies, trying to address the issues societies and the entire humanity has to solve.
As mentioned above, the WHO can and should play an essential role in improving the situation in the world. This organization has access to resources that have been utilized to conduct research and learn more about the disease and ways to treat and prevent it (Donkin et al., 2017). The WHO also has sufficient resources to educate people and governments regarding the benefits and sometimes the necessity of healthy lifestyles and choices. This organization can reach people in the most distant areas and help people understand what health really means and how it can be attained. In many cases, the WHO can also fund diverse programs and interventions to help particular communities or countries address public health issues. Other international organizations such as UNICEF and UNESCO have similar opportunities and responsibility to improve the health and wellbeing of people in the world by implementing various programs and projects.
Clearly, governments play a central role in ensuring public health in their countries. Governments are responsible for ensuring the highest standards of living for the people living in these countries. The enactment of acts and legislative norms that would increase children’s access to high-quality health care and education, proper neighborhoods and diverse opportunities to live healthy lives are direct responsibilities of governments. Communities, healthcare facilities, and schools also play a critical role in the improvement of people’s health and wellbeing. Educational effort is one of the major responsibilities of schools and other facilities that must show young people and their families the ways to be healthy physically and mentally. Clearly, all these stakeholders should collaborate to achieve the highest results and ensure the improvement of people’s health and wellbeing.
Although the role played by such social entities as governments, institutions, and organizations is considerable, the primary caregiver to a child is the family. Children adopt behavioral patterns accepted in their families and follow these patterns during their adulthood. Of course, direct effects on child’s health are visible during the first years of their life. For instance, quite a high rate of road accidents that involve children shows that families play the central role in ensuring the safety of the child (Public Health England, 2021). Of course, low-income families can seek help from governmental and non-governmental organizations, educational establishments and communities. Schools can be seen as central guides for children and families due to the close contact between the stakeholders. Educators should teach and train families to live healthy lifestyles and seek the necessary opportunities to improve their health and wellbeing.
The mutual effort of the stakeholders mentioned above can be instrumental in achieving balance between depth and breadth in promoting health. On the one hand, international institutions can analyze trends on a global scale and address international issues. Government and communities, as well as schools and healthcare facilities, can focus on the needs of the exact groups of people living in the corresponding countries and communities. While families, by voicing their needs and collaborating effectively with organizations and institutions, can help in implementing in-depth studies and developing effective interventions to provide targeted help. The collaboration of all these stakeholders and their preparedness to contribute and take responsibility can ensure the implementation of the wellness model of health when prevention and health promotion are the central pillars.
Healthy Eating and Intervention Program
The proposed activity aims at improving children’s eating behaviors by educating them on the benefits of healthy eating and opportunities they can use to eat healthy foods. The children will grow vegetables and cook food using these grown greens. They will also see with farmers and will be encouraged to consume more vegetables taking healthier foods in their lunchboxes. The impact of the activity can be evaluated in several ways, including but not confined to discussions with the children participating in the project. These discussions will help understand whether children have developed healthy eating habits and proper attitudes towards healthy eating (eating vegetables, to be more precise). In addition, teachers’ observations of lunchbox content and eating behaviors of the students, and questionnaires sent to the parents at the end of the year will be instrumental in evaluating the outcomes of the program. Teachers will observe whether children actually eat more vegetables and what other foods they consume. Finally, parents who are unavoidably involved in the project will also share their insights into the changes (if any) in their children’s eating habits and preferences.
The activity under consideration can have multiple positive effects in children’s lives with lasting outcomes. During young age, children will adopt healthy behaviors that can become a norm in their further life if properly enhanced in later school years. The activity can create additional value for vegetables by making children more involved in the preparation of their own food. Making children agents rather than passive recipients of some information and norms can help implement the change. Many educational programs encompassing lectures and discussions or even watching cartoons regarding the benefits of eating more vegetables exist. However, passive recipients can be less committee to follow all those recommendations given during such occasions.
On the contrary, growing food and preparing something they have grown contribute to the enhancement of intrinsic motivation. It is an interesting journey for children to take a seed and finally share the food prepared from the fruit of their labor together with their classmates. This activity is based on the social learning theory as children observe other people’s behaviors and adopt effective patterns. Feeling empowered can help children remain committed to following the recommendations regarding eating vegetables. In simple terms, children feel that they have enough power to create something, so they have enough commitment to being making responsible choices and eating the foods that make them healthier.
This activity is based on the major concepts of Bronfenbrenner´s ecological system, although the focus is on the micro-, meso-, and exosystems. The first two systems involve parents, teachers, while the exosystem includes farmers and neighbors that will be invited. This system implies the analysis of all layers affecting children’s behaviors and choices. The activity also involves certain attention to macro- and chronosystems as children are trained to eat healthy foods (based on current research and cultural peculiarities of the community). By growing food, children will also be exposed to the chronosystem as they will see the way their vegetables grow and their communities change over time. In order to improve the activity, it is possible to publicize it with the help of social media, which can also have positive effects on the community as more schools can become involved.
Clearly, more research is needed to improve public health and ensure adherence to the highest standards of health and living. Regarding healthy eating, more research is needed in such areas as growing foods in diverse environments making sure that these products are safe for people. The development of interventions for children aimed at promoting healthy eating is also critical. One of the most urgent issues to address is associated with equality as even children living in developed countries have different access to healthy food. The development of programs for children living in developing countries requires attention to economic, institutional, political, and cultural aspects. The implementation of these interventions carried out by international organizations in collaboration with governments must be assessed to make successful programs used globally.
At that, numerous challenges and limitations emerge in relation to the corresponding research, as well as the development and implementation of such interventions and incentives. The disproportionate distribution of resources among communities (and countries) is the most influential factor affecting people’s opportunities to adopt healthy lifestyles. The lack of resources and the lack of commitment to contributing to the development of societies leads to such problems as child malnutrition and high mortality rate, various diseases, and traumas. One of the limitations of the poster and the activity is the lack of attention to the way children’s rights can be realized. The right to be healthy is mentioned, but it could be better to add some particular acts that could ensure the realization of this right.
In conclusion, it is necessary to note that the activity in question can have multiple and lasting positive effects on the community. Children will adopt healthy eating habits and behaviors that can persist into their adulthood as the wellness model will be applied in the community. The activity can become the ground for a holistic project that could lead to important changes in the educational system. Health promotion that is now one of the priorities can take different forms, including such activities that can potentially reach many children and families.
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