Translation of school-learned health behaviours into the home: student insights through photovoice

  • Christine McKernan
  • Genevieve Montemurro
  • Harneet Chahal
  • Paul J. Veugelers
  • Douglas Gleddie
  • Kate E. Storey
Qualitative Research



Sedentary behaviours, physical inactivity, and poor diets in Canadian children are a major public health problem. Comprehensive school health (CSH) recognizes the importance of school and home collaboration; however, it is unknown how health behaviours promoted in school are adopted at home. The purpose of this research was to explore student perceptions of the translation of an intervention taking a CSH approach in Alberta, Canada, into the home environment.


The guiding method was focused ethnography, using photovoice as the data generation strategy. Grades 5 and 6 students were purposively sampled (n = 25), and asked to take photos of what CSH looks like in their home environment. Subsequent one-on-one interviews were conducted as part of the photovoice process to gain a deeper understanding of student perceptions.


Two main themes emerged: students embraced the CSH philosophy, and students are driving change to create a healthy home culture. The underlying concept of leadership and independence was necessary for students to impact their health and the health of family members. Results demonstrated that students are catalyzing positive changes in the home environment by supporting changes in the home food environment, trying new things, facilitating improvements to healthy eating and active living, and monitoring unhealthy behaviours.


This study illustrates students’ abilities to positively impact the home environment as a result of their involvement in CSH. Student leadership and independence should be promoted and emphasized in CSH to facilitate transition of health behaviours into the home environment.


Comprehensive school health Nutrition Physical activity Children Qualitative research Photovoice 



Les comportements sédentaires, l’inactivité physique et la mauvaise alimentation constituent un grave problème de santé publique chez les enfants canadiens. L’approche globale de la santé en milieu scolaire (AGSS) reconnaît l’importance de la concertation entre l’école et la maison, mais on ignore si les comportements de santé promus à l’école sont adoptés à la maison. Notre étude visait à explorer les perceptions d’élèves de l’Alberta, au Canada, à l’égard de l’application dans leur milieu de vie d’une intervention axée sur l’AGSS.


Nous avons fait appel à l’ethnographie ciblée et utilisé des données produites par la méthode Photovoice. Nous avons demandé à un échantillon délibéré d’élèves de 5e et de 6e année (n = 25) de prendre des photos pour illustrer l’AGSS dans leur milieu de vie. Par la suite, nous avons mené des entretiens en personne, conformément à la méthode Photovoice, pour approfondir notre compréhension des perceptions des élèves.


Deux grands thèmes sont ressortis : les élèves ont adopté la philosophie de l’AGSS, et ils et elles sont des moteurs de la création d’une culture de santé à la maison. Les notions sous-jacentes de leadership et d’indépendance ont été nécessaires aux élèves pour influencer leur propre santé et celle des membres de leur famille. Les résultats obtenus montrent que les élèves apportent des changements positifs dans leur milieu de vie en favorisant la transformation de leur environnement alimentaire à la maison, en essayant de nouvelles choses, en facilitant des améliorations axées sur l’alimentation saine et la vie active, et en surveillant les comportements nuisibles pour la santé.


Notre étude montre que les élèves peuvent avoir une influence positive sur leur milieu de vie en participant à l’AGSS. Le leadership et l’indépendance des élèves sont des valeurs à promouvoir et à souligner dans l’AGSS pour faciliter le transfert des comportements de santé dans le milieu de vie.


Approche globale de la santé en milieu scolaire Nutrition Exercice physique Enfant Recherche qualitative Photovoice 



The authors would like to thank the students who participated in this research, as well as the teachers and administrators from the three APPLE Schools. We would also like to thank the APPLE Schools management team for their support on this project.

Funding information

The current work was supported by a Collaborative Research and Innovation Opportunities (CRIO) Team program from Alberta Innovates (grant number 201300671) led by PJV. CM was supported through the CRIO Team program. KES is supported as a Distinguished Researcher, Stollery Science Lab, Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation and is also a member of the Women and Children’s Health Research Institute. PJV holds a Canada Research Chair in Population Health, an Alberta Research Chair in Nutrition and Disease Prevention, and an Alberta Innovates Health Scholarship.

Compliance with ethical standards

This research received ethical approval from the University of Alberta Human Research Ethics Board (Pro00035108_REN3). Written parental consent and verbal student assent was gathered from all study participants.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


All interpretations and opinions in the current study are those of the authors.


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Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christine McKernan
    • 1
  • Genevieve Montemurro
    • 1
  • Harneet Chahal
    • 1
  • Paul J. Veugelers
    • 1
  • Douglas Gleddie
    • 2
  • Kate E. Storey
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Public HealthUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.Faculty of EducationUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

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