Mum's Diet and Children's Voice in Health Education

Atkins, D
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Conference Contribution
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The Australian Council for Health, Physical Education and Recreation

This presentation focuses on the importance of understanding more about how children develop particular understandings about health and about their bodies through formal and informal learning processes. It will discuss findings from a 2-year long ethnographic study undertaken in Aotearoa New Zealand that explored how primary school aged children reproduce health messages. The study drew on Shilling’s (2008) notion of corporeal perfection, referring to the ‘ideal body’, an image that is often cultivated as acceptable with children. This presentation shares findings from the research that illustrate ways in which health programmes and resources overtly and inadvertently limit understandings of what it is to be healthy and what constitutes a healthy body. Mum’s Diet (a reading book by Joy Cowley) provides a framework for discussion on understanding health and healthy bodies. This presentation will discuss the opportunities that teachers have to reinforce messages about health and how these can often be re-contexualised, resulting in children’s voice being a reproduction of the cultural norms afforded them through their school and home environment.

Health education; Ethnography; Children’s voice; Obesity discourse; Healthism
Learning Communities: International Journal of Learning in Social Contexts [Special Issue: 2017 30th ACHPER International Conference], 21, 168-179. DOI:
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