Perceptions of Health

In etiological studies of child health, we and others have argued that contextual determinants of child health such as homes and families are best studied using an ecological approach. We have performed a preliminary qualitative study (using youth focus groups across Ontario) in order to listen intentionally to the views of young people within the HBSC age range (ages 11 – 15) about health. We believe we will find novel inspiration and thinking by listening to these views. Moreover, the International Convention of the Rights of the Child declares that if children are being studied, they have a fundamental right to have a voice in those discussions. We believe that this preliminary qualitative study will provide invaluable insight as we develop this quantitative measure. Research questions will include: How do Canadian adolescents perceive the concept of health? What individual components of health are important to this group? Are there larger categories that can help to organize these individual components of health?

Research Findings

Forming idea around health: A qualitative study of Ontario adolescents


What was studied?

Ontario adolescents were asked where they got their own ideas about health and how these ideas formed


Who was studied?

40 youth, ages 10 to 16, participated in this qualitative study through focus groups across Ontario.


What was found?

Youth identified that they learned about health in many different situations. These can be broken down into explicit learning situations (didactic learning), or implicit learning situations (organic learning). Examples of didactic learning include formal settings such as health class with a teacher or informal contexts such as conversations about health with a parent. Organic learning experiences included self-reflective experiences, experiences of a close friend, casually observing other people, or common conversation. This study found that although didactic learning is still important, youth were much more influences by what they learned through organic learning situations.


What should parents and caregivers take out of this?

This research tells us that much of what children and youth learn about health comes from what they see in their daily lives. Therefore it is important for adult role models such as parents, teachers, and coaches to not just talk about how to be healthy, but also to demonstrate it in how they live. Additionally, when health is taught in a didactic way, adolescents should be encouraged to self-reflect on their learning so that they also experience it organically.

Holistic Health