University of Tasmania

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HealthLit4Kids: A professional development program to improve teachers’ health literacy knowledge, skills and experience

Version 2 2024-04-24, 06:53
Version 1 2023-05-25, 01:16
conference contribution
posted on 2024-04-24, 06:53 authored by Rose NashRose Nash, Kira PattersonKira Patterson, Vaughan CruickshankVaughan Cruickshank, Claire OttenClaire Otten, Jack EvansJack Evans, Shandell ElmerShandell Elmer

Currently, health is not being taught consistently in the classroom, despite it being a compulsory curriculum requirement of the Australian Curriculum. The Health & Physical Education (HPE) strand makes specific reference to the importance of developing our primary school students’ (5-12years) health literacy. As a lifelong skill, health literacy development in childhood informs adult health behaviours. Specialist HPE teachers struggle to do more than teach the PE component of the HPE curriculum in the time allocated and funded each week. Classroom teachers locally, nationally and internationally have highlighted a number of barriers 
to teaching health in the classroom which include time, resources, and confidence to teach health topics.

Description of Objectives/Methods/Intervention
HealthLit4Kids is a whole of school intervention designed to improve the health literacy of children and their communities. Co designed with teachers, children and parents in each school the program seeks to provide teachers with a school-wide health literacy action plan. Three professional development workshops with the teaching staff from each school were provided in the implementation phase. An existing tool developed to assess health literacy knowledge, skills and experience (KSE) was administered to all teachers at 5 Tasmanian schools in workshop 1 (pre) and workshop 3 (post).

Results (effects/impact/changes)
Teachers (n=79) from all 5 schools reported an improvement in confidence in their health literacy KSE. The teacher’s health literacy knowledge score significantly increased (P=<0.001) from pre (M=20.61, SD=6.21) to post (M=30.89, SD=5.22). The teacher’s health literacy skills score also significantly increased (P=<0.001) from pre (M=11.15, SD=3.65) to post (M=17.36, SD=3.48).

Discussions/Conclusions/Lessons Learned
Teacher competence and confidence to teach health in the classroom is critical if we are to improve the health literacy, educational attainment, health outcomes and productivity of our future generations. Given health literacy can combat health inequalities, schools provide a logical setting for a population level response. HealthLit4Kids increased teacher’s health literacy knowledge, skills and experience; however, to be confident in the findings, this research should be repeated in further schools nationally and internationally.


Tasmanian Community Fund


Publication title

Global Health Literacy Summit


Education, Office of the Faculty of Education, Medicine, Menzies Institute for Medical Research

Publication status

  • Published

Event title

Global Health Literacy Summit

Event Venue


Date of Event (Start Date)


Date of Event (End Date)


Socio-economic Objectives

200203 Health education and promotion

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