Engaging a School Community in a Collaborative Approach to Healthy Body Image and Diversity Acceptance

Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Over the past four decades, there has been an increased call for prevention and promotion efforts to address increasing rates of eating disorders and obesity in children (Public Health Agency of Canada [PHAC], 2011a; 2011b). Despite efforts, there are ongoing concerns about weight-related issues in children such as weight dissatisfaction (Davison, Markey, & Birch, 2003); dieting and disordered eating (McVey, Tweed, & Blackmore, 2005); and weight bias, weight-based teasing, and weight-based victimization (Peterson, Puhl, & Luedicke, 2012). Addressing children’s weight-related issues in schools is a very complex endeavour. The purpose of this project was to engage a school community in a collaborative approach to improving body image and diversity acceptance. A feminist-informed participatory action research (f-PAR) approach was used. Piran and Teall’s (2012) Developmental Theory of Embodiment was used to critically examine experiences of embodiment as well as gender, power, and relational issues. However, practical and political challenges occurred during the research process. Conflicting priorities, administrative gatekeeping, silencing, teacher non-engagement, and lack of parental and student knowledge of the research impacted the project. Two teacher in-services, a teacher focus group, and a parent in-service were conducted. The Body Image Kits (Body Image Works, 2005) were used in Junior High health classes, and body image discussions occurred in Senior High Career and Life Management (CALM) classes. Participants identified a number of issues affecting students’ body image. Action initiatives included the development of Elementary and Junior High Girls Groups, changing the school fundraising policy, and revisiting the staff wellness plan. Collaborative discussions with educational policy makers about policies and practices regarding children’s weight-related issues in schools are indicated. There is a need to listen to students’ voices, transform the school context, develop a Comprehensive School Health approach, improve teacher professional development, utilize a social justice perspective, and involve parents. University-school research partnerships are indicated to utilize evidence-based best practices and build capacity. In conclusion, the creation of a healthy school environment involves far more than healthy nutrition plans and physical activities: it requires an orientation towards social justice and the courage to advocate for social change.
Educational Psychology
Bardick, A. D. (2015). Engaging a School Community in a Collaborative Approach to Healthy Body Image and Diversity Acceptance (Doctoral thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from https://prism.ucalgary.ca. doi:10.11575/PRISM/25889