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Health promotion in schools: A scoping review of systematic reviews

Chilton, Roy; Pearson, Mark; Anderson, Rob


Roy Chilton

Rob Anderson


– Schools are an important setting for a wide variety of activities to promote health. The purpose of this paper is to map the different types of health promotion programmes and activities in schools, to estimate the amount of published evaluations of health promotion within UK schools, and to identify any provisional “candidate programme theories” to inform a planned theory-driven systematic review.

– Review of reviews: in total, 67 published systematic reviews of health promotion in schools were identified, from which a sub-sample of 28 systematic reviews (on 14 health topics) were retrieved for more detailed reading.

– Key dimensions of programme design and delivery fell mainly under the following categories: the problem and age-group of children targeted, who delivers the programme and how, and the scale and theoretical underpinning of the programme. Candidate programme theories spanned both effectiveness factors and aspects of programme implementation.

Research limitations/implications
– Few detailed “candidate theories” emerged for explaining how and why health promotion can more successfully implemented in different schools.

Practical implications
– There are five or more systematic reviews of studies of health promotion programmes in schools which target: smoking prevention; physical activity; sexual health; emotional and behavioural health and well-being; mental health; substance abuse; obesity/overweight. This suggests probable duplication of health problem-specific systematic reviews.

– The findings highlight the considerable diversity of health promotion in schools, and specifies key dimensions of this diversity. They underline the need to understand better how, why, and in what circumstances health promotion can be successfully implemented in different schools and education systems.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 2015-06
Journal Health Education
Print ISSN 0965-4283
Publisher Emerald
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 115
Issue 3-4
Pages 357-376
APA6 Citation Chilton, R., Pearson, M., & Anderson, R. (2015). Health promotion in schools: A scoping review of systematic reviews. Health Education, 115(3-4), 357-376. doi:10.1108/HE-03-2014-0033
Keywords Health promotion; Implementation; Systematic review; Schools
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