Contributions of school health education in promoting heal thy lifestyles in Kenya: case studies of primary schools in Nairobi county
Kiara, Francis Kirimi
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A healthy lifestyle is an enviable ingredient in one's life due to the unending benefits that it enables one to acquire and enjoy in life. These benefits include leading a healthy and productive life free from non-communicable lifestyle diseases such as obesity, hypertension, cancer, heart diseases, overweight and diabetes which have caused untold suffering to the contemporary society. Globally, the number of persons with non-communicable lifestyle diseases has increased dramatically over the past years, making them one of the most burdensome diseases. National surveys in most parts of Africa indicate that cases of non-communicable lifestyle diseases are increasing drastically. In Kenya, health education is included in the school curriculum; further, in the year 2009, the government launched a national school health policy to enhance the quality of health in school communities by creating a healthy and child friendly environment for teaching and learning. Health education on non-communicable diseases is a potent tool that can provide preventive knowledge and skills to pupils early in life during formative years. This is critical since through socialization, habits formed early in life may tend to outlast challenges in later life. In view of escalating cases of non-communicable lifestyle diseases, there was need to explore the contributions of the Kenya National School Health Policy and teaching of health education in promoting healthy lifestyles to enable pupils to be socialized to acquire good practices to prevent non-communicable diseases. The study was mainly descriptive. A multiple case study method was used to provide a detailed study of the schools sampled. Stratified random sampling techniques were used to select three primary schools study sites in Nairobi County which were ideal for this study due to their urban and metropolitan location. The target population was comprised of primary school pupils, teachers, parents, head teachers, Quality Assurance Education Officers in Nairobi County and curriculum developers in the Kenya institute of Education. The data collection tools were content analysis schedule, observation schedule, semi-structured interview guides and focus group discussions. Data was analyzed qualitatively guided by themes drawn from research objectives while quantitative data was analyzed using basic descriptive statistics and presented in pertinent themes. The study findings showed that there is likelihood of an upward exponential increase in noncommunicable lifestyle diseases due to various factors that include lack of implementation of the Kenya National School Health Policy; lack of content dealing with non-communicable diseases in curriculum; use of teacher-centred teaching approaches which are theoretical and examination oriented leading to lack of action-competence; lack of good practices in feeding and physical exercises as well as socio-cultural beliefs. The study concludes that noncommunicable diseases are likely to increase exponentially and geometrically since there are no proactive sustainable strategies to curb them. The government needs to mobilize the resources via the Ministries concerned to provide leadership in policies for advocacy, implementation, supervision and close monitoring of programmes on non-communicable lifestyle diseases.