Between Urgent and Lifelong Matters: Overweight Children’s Voices on Health Promotion Pedagogies

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This article draws upon research exploring school-based community practices of health education for overweight children and their families. In accordance with the existing critique of the ‘obesity epidemic’ and medico-scientific discourses around food and exercise, this article challenges the prevailing binary risk-based pedagogies that inevitably lead to imperatives of right and wrong health behaviour. The analyses presented in this article draw on sociological and pedagogical perspectives, informed by obese children’s participation in lifestyle courses in Denmark. Observations and narratives of 39 children on these courses led to three main findings, pointing to overlooked pedagogical potentials in public health programmes. The first finding was how health education, relying on a fixed and absolute set of health categories, is a prompt execution of moral responsibility to reverse the risks of the ‘obesity epidemic’. This does, however, create ‘pedagogical urgency’ with little room for identifying existing health resources, in the endeavour to transfer health information. Secondly, as discourses of risks become the dominant point of departure, presumed lacks and deficits of the overweight child’s body become a pedagogical epicentre. This leaves a number of health competences pedagogically unexplored. Finally, the involvement of the children’s narratives leads to the conclusion of reversing, not the ‘obesity epidemic’, but the risk-based pedagogies, in order to base health education on lifelong learning. This, I argue, calls for a shift into a new paradigm of health education by regarding the promotion of health as a reflexive learning practice.
TidsskriftDiscourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education
Udgave nummer6
Sider (fra-til)816-831
Antal sider16
StatusUdgivet - 2019

Bibliografisk note

Important note from the Publisher regarding the attached version of the article: “This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education on 29 Nov 2017, available online:”


  • health pedagogies
  • health education
  • paradigm of health
  • obesity epidemic
  • childhood
  • self-perceptions
  • reflexive learning

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