Community health in HPE: Are human beings the only ones that matter?

Year: 2019

Author: Taylor, Nicole

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In this paper, I theorise how educators and researchers in HPE could re/imagine the possibilities for meanings of community health and wellbeing, in order to address the interconnectedness of the human and more-than-human world (Gibbs, 2009). In the Australian Curriculum: HPE, learning content is organised into two strands, one of which is ‘personal, social and community health’. This strand proposes that young people can, and will, contribute to healthy communities. In the field of health education, research that critically questions the meanings of ‘community health’ are largely absent, with community links often framed as an access point into community development and health promotion services (McGrath, Alfrey, & Jeanes, 2017). For example, Beyond Blue or Headspace can be identified as ‘go to’ community health settings for young people. However, in many ways, such conceptions of community reinforce a humanistic, individualised approach to health education. In contrast, ‘community health’ understandings could be broadened to include meanings that move beyond human centred approaches, to also include the more-than-human, as part of the wider, collective social-scape that is ‘all connected’. In this way, the material, biological and more-than-human aspects of the ‘community’ are able to be considered for the effects they have on constructions of health knowledge and practice.

This paper will demonstrate how other disciplines conceptualise ‘community’ in a broader sense with a common desire to contest the limits of human and more-than-human communities (including the problems of the Anthropocene, climate change and planetary health and wellbeing). In line with this knowledge base, plants, water, ecosystems, objects and forces, all become significant to understanding how beliefs are formed around human and ‘nature’ relationships, and therefore, ways of negotiating community health spaces (Gibbs, 2009). If we extend the notions of ‘agency’, ‘care’ and ‘community’ to the more-than-human world, how might health education become implicated as an ethical and political obligation toward learning about health?