Mobilizing Key Body Positive Health

The intent of the proposed research is to promote knowledge sharing to identify the key body literacy messages that promote a healthy body image and provide adequate tools for teachers so that they are able to encourage and support students in making healthy, body-positive life choices.

Project Category:
Exploiting available research more effectively
Topic Area:
Elementary, Health, Student Identity
Ministry Priority
(2011-2013):
Teaching and Learning, Equity
Project Lead(s):
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Brief Background:
The intent of the proposed research is to promote knowledge sharing to identify the key body literacy messages that promote a healthy body image and provide adequate tools for teachers so that they are able to encourage and support students in making healthy, body-positive life choices.
Research Context:
Strong social and cultural forces give the message that individuals are accepted based on appearance. The media present a model of thinness that is not natural and not healthy as an ideal for the general population. A 2002 Canadian study reports that 61% of Grade 7 students reported that they had dieted to lose weight (McVey & Davis, 2002). This trend is predicted to continue as rates of obesity rise and Canadian children are at great risk without intervention at home and in school (Gray, 2009) to moderate societal pressures to look a certain way. Promising earlier theoretical constructs considered include: health literacy (Anderson & Booth, 2006; Nutbeam, 2000) and a health literate population (Rootman & El-Bihbety, 2008). Based on our research, a critical body literacy model (Robertson & Thomson, 2012) is proposed which gives guidance to curriculum developers and helps address the complexity and contradictions in pan-Canadian Health and Physical Education curriculum policies.
Knowledge Mobilization Activities:

This project will mobilize knowledge in three ways: (1) by creating a web space teachbodyimage.org designed for teachers and parents ; (2) through refereed articles and conference presentations ; and (3) creating an ongoing Nin-based discussion forum for preservice teachers .


The website that has been created provides mini-lessons and short teaching units based on research on body image and critical body literacy (Robertson & Thomson, 2012). The website provides parent and teacher support materials designed to build protective and resilience in students to help them to resist societal pressures to match an unrealistic media ideal. A survey has been developed that provides some indication of whether or not the WBLOs have had an impact on consideration of health literacy and teacher comfort level with addressing the topics of health body image, weight, and obesity. The website also provides research summaries to help teachers address body image in developmentally-appropriate ways.

Outcomes:
This project will help build coherence around the most helpful critical body literacy messages for Canadian teachers and students based on the research from health sciences. The website hosted by UOIT will be used as the tool to mobilize knowledge and promote research information for teachers, health practitioners and parents. The research team believes strongly that this knowledge mobilization is an important and critical step in helping teachers and parents address positive messages around body shape and size: an issue that requires support to address.