If we teach about illness, isn’t this upsetting for children?
Children really enjoy learning about their own bodies and how they work. This includes what happens when we become ill, the symptoms of different illnesses and what we can do to maximise our chances of staying healthy. Some parents have commented that this has really helped their son or daughter when dealing with illness at home.
I’m qualified as a teacher, not a doctor. How can you expect me to teach about illness?
Teachers are not expected to be experts, but to help children explore how the ups and down of health (physical and mental) are a normal part of their lives. Facts4life resources include information sheets on different illnesses that provide support when children research into aspects of illness and health that interest them and that teachers feel appropriate.
The curriculum is already too full. How will I find the space for Facts4Life?
Many themes currently taught in primary schools link with the Facts4Life scheme of work, including aspects of science, PE, DT within the national curriculum. It is the emphasis given to some of these themes that is unique to our approach and does not require significant additional time. Some schools have chosen to teach parts of Facts4Life within an annual health week.
The resource is very versatile and can be delivered in a variety of ways that can enhance the curriculum without demanding additional timetabling.
How is this going to help children in National Curriculum tests?
Facts4Life aims to support schools to create a climate in which children are focused and ready to learn. This includes confidence in managing their own health and the development of an emotional literacy that underpins mental health. In this climate, children are more likely to be be able to fulfil their potential as learners.
I’m expected to measure children’s progress. How can you measure understanding about illness and wellbeing?
We recognize that schools are expected to show learning over time in all aspects of the curriculum. We suggest a number of activities that can be used for teacher evidence within the school’s own assessment practice. We provide an evaluation sheet that can be used to measure children’s attitudes and skills before and after undertaking Facts4Life work. In addition, the 30 Day Facts4Life Challenge provides a practical and fun way for children to log their own changing health behaviours.
Patient: When I visit my GP I’m looking for answers to problems. I have complex medical needs and I don’t understand all the details about my condition. I can’t interpret blood tests and things like that. Isn’t it the GPs responsibility to look after these issues for me?
In fact most medical conditions are not that difficult to understand when they’re explained carefully. Your GP does have over responsibility for your health but also it’s a shared responsibility between the two of you.
HP: I’ve got enough to do seeing 30 patients a day. How can I find the time to educate them as well as treat them?
That’s true and we’re not expecting you to educate them. We are only expecting you to mirror the sorts of messages that we are trying to get across in schools. These are that people can learn to better keep their bodies in balance, they can learn that the body heals naturally and they can understand the time in which this takes place. They can also understand that the responsibility for their health is shared between you and them. Over time we think the nature of the discourse between patients and health professionals will change into a more collaborative relationship and therefore there will be more opportunities down the line to educate them.
HP: Whose idea is this?
Dr Hugh van’t Hoff has spent many years developing the core principles of Facts4Life and they have been tested in schools. We have shown that we can alter children’s attitudes to illness so that they feel happier about taking on more responsibility. With this evidence we have gained funding from the Gloucestershire CCG and Gloucestershire County Council (Public Health) for a roll out of the project to half the schools in Gloucestershire.
HP: Hang on a minute you're trying to teach medicine to children aged 5-11yrs. Most people find this information very complex even at medical school and you need three A's to get in!
Facts4Life has refined the key concepts that GPs learn at medical school down to three core principles that children can use in understanding medical problems: we have to ride the ups and downs of life, we have to understand how the body keeps in balance (homoeostasis and healing) and we have to find a way of smoothing the path; that is, adopting ways of living which make the ups and downs less profound.
HP: Aren't you going to end up frightening children about their own death, cancer, illness in their parents, dementia and all sorts of other incurable illnesses?
We think children are very keen to know everything about the world and they have an innocent and enquiring frame of mind which means they’re interested in all sorts of things including death and dying, illness across the world and why, for example, their grandmother’s got dementia or why they have had chicken pox. We can tap into this thirst for knowledge and give children the information that they’re looking for. The evidence from the pilot study shows that a lot of children have found the process of discovering about illness is transformative and reassuring. The opening up of a debate about illness gives permission to both children and teachers (and also the wider family) to start to talk about and explore illness and what it means.
HP: Won't you destroy the doctor patient relationship?
The doctor patient relationship is in a state of flux and always has been. Facts4Life is trying to educate children in a language about health and illness so that they can become responsible users of the healthcare service in 15 – 20 years time.
HP: What's in it for me?
Facts4Life doesn’t involve any input from Health Professionals other than an acknowledgement that the project is taking place locally and, hopefully, brief endorsement of the ideas. You will be in the vanguard of change in medical care. This is a unique and groundbreaking project. We have looked around the world and have found no one else doing anything similar.