Review of educational research within the territory of health in Swedish Ph.D.-theses during 2005-2014

Year: 2016

Author: Björklund, Erika

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

According to Kickbusch (2007), lately health has grown in societal significance to such a degree that we can talk about a shift to a “health society”. From a pedagogical perspective, this shift can be understood as a shift in mentality (Ödman, 1995), meaning a shift in how we think about and understand society and ourselves. In this “health society”, and perhaps with increased impact since the introduction of the notion of health promotion in the 1980s (Nutbeam 2008), health has become both a commodity and a trade (fitness market, health foods, alternative therapies, health tourism, cosmetic surgery, etc, see Kickbusch 2007). With its increased reach, and considering the importance of education to health work, one question is how health figures in education research. Therefore, the aim of this paper is to explore this, with Swedish Ph.D. theses as an example. It asks: What aspects of health and health society are educational researchers in Sweden interested in? How is health perceived and framed in the perspective of educational research? What questions are being asked? And hence, how can educational research within the territory of health support health workers/practitioners in their work? The empirical material is based on Swedish doctoral theses in education published during the years of 2005-2014 (n = 666). Through two selection stages, guided by a broad conceptualization of health, 74 theses were identified as health related and selected for analysis to determine how health figures in the theses with regard to the research questions. The preliminary results show that few theses in education directly relate to health. The most common areas studied are the school subject of physical health and education, student health, health care, and sports. Quite a few studies are concerned with issues of professionalization and many want to understand learning processes related to various illnesses or chronic conditions that people live with, while few studies have research questions that relate to practices of (salutogenic) health promotion or the profession of health promotion. In conclusion, health figures in educational research primarily in terms of various health related arenas as objects of study, and to a more limited extent as an object of knowledge.