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Role modalities in urban health education. Impact on children’s and adolescent’s risk and health Karen Wistoft Phd associated professor Department of education (DPU) Aarhus university. Introduction. An important feature of contemporary welfare state management is urban health education

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Role modalities in urban health education

Role modalities in urban health education

Impact on children’s and adolescent’s risk and health

Karen Wistoft Phd associated professor

Department of education (DPU)

Aarhus university


An important feature of contemporary welfare state management is urban health education

Includes alliances and partnerships for developing public health policies and educational practices that positively impact on the health of people

Health promotion (in the traditional sense) has been replaced by new managerial institutions and new cross-professional partnerships

For children and young people, this managerial revolution has meant new roles

The premises for their inclusion into health promotion have changed.

Role modalities

This paper investigates role expectations in relation to urban strategies of health education and promotion in Denmark

Research project children at risk 1 9 2007 31 7 2010
Research project ’Children at risk’ (1.9.2007-31.7.2010)

  • Cooperative research funded by the Danish National Research Council

  • Researchers from two research environments:

    • Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy at Copenhagen Business School

    • Department of Education (DPU), Aarhus University

  • General objective:

    • To assess and compare tendencies in public health management and health education aimed at children and young people

    • Settings: the Danish municipalities

Data collection 4 separate studies
Data collection - 4 separate studies

Pilot study – in four selected municipalities: analyses of their health policies, organizational diagrams and interviews with their public health managers and coordinators (N=47)

Survey - telephone interviews with the health managers, directors and leading health coordinators in the Danish municipalities (N=72/98)

Focus group interviews with pupils aged 13-14, from 18 different school classes geographically spread across the country (N=108)

Comparative case study in five selected municipalities. The comparisons are based on local health promotion programs and focus group interviews with health professionals (N=36)

Combined empirical perspectives
Combined empirical perspectives

  • Health management perspective and a health-pedagogical perspective: the interplay between the political-administrative level and the professional level.

  • Semantic perspective: concepts and meanings embodied in the discourses that have an impact on how children and adolescents’ health is put into words

  • Values perspective: the type of knowledge, values and norms that are put into play through health efforts for children and adolescents

    This approach links a value-reflected interaction between health professionals and children/adolescents (Wistoft 2009, 2010)

System theoretical framework
System theoretical framework

In a system theoretical perspective the matter of inclusion becomes a question of both the communication about people as certain role bearers and a question of the ways people as persons react towards generalised role communications (Luhmann 1995; Stichweh 2005; Stäheli 2007).

Combined elements from system theory and health education theory in order to grasp different semantic modalities of inclusion of children and young people.

Empirical investigations
Empirical investigations

In terms of making certain roles become popular in urban health education (in order for children and young people to become interested in wearing the roles) and by wearing the roles they are becoming recognisable and communicative

In terms of preparation for participation in behavioural activities such as co-decision making, different preventive initiatives and personal reactions are becoming recognisable.

Conclusion of the project
Conclusion of the project

A new kind of identity – ‘the risky child’ is attributed to the children as they are involved

Being confronted with different risks of childhood coming for example from eating fatty food, drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes or having sexual relationships, the children are brought into a moral, political and lifestyle oriented discourse on risks

In this discourse their identity (as children or adolescents) is at stake as they are expected to participate as ‘well-experienced information consumers’

They are expected to be rational, qualified, and future oriented participants. Often the health promotion information concerns a distant future in which the children risk invisible threats.

Two discourse on risk
Two discourse on risk

The ability to choose freely (basically a risk taking attitude): The individual children and adolescents chooses what is best for him or her, and takes a, hopefully, well-informed risk

A preventive discourse in which the opposite attitude is suggested, namely, to avoid future risks

The two discourses are only seemingly in opposition

They both participate in identity constructions that turn children into risky people, potentially risk bearers, risk information consumers, risk prioritisers and choosers.

Risk reflexivity

The paper concerns a thesis for further development, that present urban health is accompanied by certain requests concerning the use of health information:

To the individual, this means that the role as healthy involves information processing and reflexive activities modulating between being a risk-taker and risk avoider

Already in childhood, the risk-mode of relating to one self is promoted. The role as healthy is also a role of risk reflection – and the purpose of urban health education.

Thank you for your attention
Thank you for your attention!

Karen Wistoft

Departement of Education (DPU)

Faculty of Arts

Aarhus Universitet

Campus Emdrup

+45 2613 2653