Children's Health and Well-Being: Making Sense of the Health Conundrum

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 3:30 PM
Room: Booth 64
Oral Presentation
Tobia FATTORE , Sociology, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia
Lifestyle related morbidities affecting children have attracted attention from national and international policy makers. One response to these public health concerns is to inform children and their parents of health promoting behaviours so as to establish life long habits for good health. However, epidemiological trends suggest that the prevalence of childhood morbidities is increasing. This suggests that health promotion programs appear to be struggling in effecting change in response to a complex set of factors driving this trend.

This paper attempts to make a small contribution to understanding this problem by presenting some research on children’s understandings of health and well-being. The study is based on a participatory, multi-stage qualitative research study with 123 children aged 8-15 years, focussed on children’s understandings of ‘well-being’. While a significant amount of research draws upon the sociology of health to understand children’s perspectives of their illness, less common is research that obtains children’s perspectives of what health or well-being means.

Our findings show that when children discuss their health they invoke themes from health promotion campaigns, which share many of the features of ‘healthism’ (Crawford 1980). However, children also call upon different and more broad-ranging meanings of well-being which problematise these healthism discourses. These include locating health as one dimension of well-being that prioritises agency, security and a positive sense of self; as promoting the body as a ‘functional entity; and of health as generated intersubjectively which reproduce patterns of moral anxiety among carers. The findings suggest that children’s understandings of well-being provide important clues as to the limits of health promotion campaigns and a set of considerations policy-makers need to take into account to effectively respond to the health conundrum.