The implementation of the Eat Well Be Active policies: Stories from the ground

Year: 2009

Author: Leow, Anthony, Macdonald, Doune, McCuaig, Louise

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The Eat Well Be Active (EWBA) - Healthy Kids for Life Action Plan (Queensland Government, 2005) was launched by the Queensland Government as a blueprint for addressing obesity in Queensland. Taking into account its principal focus on ameliorating obesity amongst children and young people, it is hardly surprising that schools are thrust into the lead role of implementing the EWBA Action Plan and its derivatives addressing the twin causes of obesity - a lack of physical activity and/or proper nutrition. Smart Choices (Queensland Government, 2007b) was introduced in Queensland state schools to regulate school-based food and drinks supply with the aim to limit the children's access to unhealthy food and drinks during school hours. Following the successful implementation of Smart Choices (Queensland Government, 2007b), Smart Moves (Queensland Government, 2007c) was mandated to address the physical activity component of the obesity equation. Under Smart Moves, students in all state schools must be exposed to at least 30 minutes of physical activity of moderate intensity a day. Smart Choices (Queensland Government, 2007b) and Smart Moves (Queensland Government, 2007c) are just two examples of a myriad of other health promotion policies in the contested terrain of school-based curriculum, underlined by the traditional core business of imbuing students with science knowledge, literacy and numeracy.

Data was collected in 10 schools (both primary and secondary) in a low socio-economic metropolitan area with a focus on the effects of the mandated implementation of the EWBA Action Plan and its derivatives i.e. Smart Moves and Smart Choices. Interviews were conducted with school administrators e.g. principals, deputy principals, heads of HPE departments as well as HPE teachers and classroom teachers involved in the structuring of the HPE curriculum within their schools. The pedagogic device (Bernstein, 1996, 2000) allows the data to be analysed in terms of the policy intent and policy action on the ground. In addition, it offers insights to the hegemony between the recontextualising and the reproduction fields and how symbolic control is exerted on the agents of the reproduction field i.e. members of the school community. Specifically, the results discuss the policy implementation from the position of the policy executioners in the reproduction field i.e. school administrators and teachers and how it affects their work. From the results, it appears that there exists a disjunction between the recontextualising and reproduction fields in terms of policy implementation. However, there were also instances where the participants viewed the mandated policy as an affirmation and recognition of their current work, suggesting both fissions and fractures in the schools' interaction with the implementation of the EWBA Action Plan and its derivatives.

Key words: public health policy; policy implementation, accountability, physical education, Bernstein, pedagogic device