General Comment No. 7

Indicator Set 12: Age-appropriate Health Education

Age-appropriate health education is one of the first ways for young children to exercise their rights, such as the right to express their views, protect themselves from harm and access health services. Hence, General Comment No. 7 asserts that in order to realise children’s right to health (GC7 para. 27), besides the provision of basic materials needs, health care services and breastfeeding as well as complementary feeding, age-appropriate health education for young children is necessary. Such education would allow children to participate actively in healthy lifestyles. This participation, in turn, would elevate their health and as a result facilitate the realisation of children’s right to health. Such age-appropriate education is to encompass information on a broad spectrum of topics, such as personal hygiene, childhood obesity, making better dietary choices, living physically active lifestyles, the harmful effects of alcohol and nicotine, and so on. This will require the involvement of a broad range of duty bearers, including health professionals, educational practitioners, and parents and other caregivers of young children. Among these key players, parents and other caregivers play a crucial role. Community-based projects with peer support orientation could be an effective way to educate parents and help realise age-appropriate health education for their children. Such education should comply with the 4-A principle of early childhood education (Availability, Accessibility, Acceptability and Adaptability) suggested by the former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education, Katarina Tomaševski. GC7 para. 27b restates articles 24e and 24f of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. These articles require State parties to ensure that all segments of society are aware of relevant health issues. They also require State parties to provide preventative guidance which, in GC7 terms, facilitates young children as active and suitably informed (CRC article 17) participants in the realisation of their own right to health. This empowerment process does not diminish the obligations of the State and other appropriately supported and informed duty bearers towards young children.

Key Question: With respect to articles 17, 24, 24.2e and 24.2f of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, what programmes are in place to ensure that young children have access to age-appropriate health education and to assess the preventative impact of such programmes on health-related behaviours and specific health outcomes?