This is an excerpt from Essentials of Teaching Health Education 2nd Edition With HKPropel Access, The by Sarah Benes & Holly Alperin.
Step 1: Introduce the Skill
Advocacy teaches students how to build support for a cause and encourage others to adopt or maintain a health-promoting behavior. The procedural knowledge for this skill evolves from the early elementary level to the high school level. At the elementary level, students identify issues that are important to them, learn more about that topic, verbalize requests, and give their opinions about specific health practices in ways that encourage others to do something. The importance of this should not be underestimated.
Many students have not been given the guidance and encouragement to effectively verbalize their health needs. Up until this point, it is likely that people in their lives have told them what is in their best interest. Given this, students may not have learned how to be a voice that encourages others to make choices that promote health and well-being. Teaching the youngest students these two skills empowers them and supports their development of agency to address issues of concern. Even from a young age, students can be key players in keeping themselves and others safe and healthy.
At the secondary level, the performance indicators expand beyond stating a health-promoting message and encouraging others to also include working cooperatively with others as an advocate and recognizing how the audience shapes the development and delivery of the message. Especially at the secondary level, students reflect on social norms and school or community culture and how these affect youth choices. Once students take that information and work with others to improve the health of themselves, their families, and the community, they begin to understand how complex advocacy really is. To many, it appears as if this skill is just about telling others what you think, but actually it requires a thoughtful, measured approach to achieve the desired outcome.
While advocacy is an opportunity to share ideas and encourage change, it is also an opportunity for students to dig deeper into issues to understand the root cause. In fact, if we want to help students develop the ability to effect change at the self, individual, and systemic levels, we must also teach them to go beyond surface-level issues. To do this, students need to understand that laws, policies, and norms develop over time and are rooted in deeper, more complex systems. As discussed in chapter 3, to truly address health disparity and inequity, we need to look beyond what we currently know or the practices we currently engage in. We must seek to understand the reasons that inequality and inequity exist and address it in ways that address and promote change (NAP, 2019; WHO, 2017). In the classroom, we can teach students to be advocates who understand how change happens and can design efforts to address the change they would like to see in their world.