Health and Environment Education

Health and Environment : Action-based Learning (HEAL)
(Programme coordinators: Bakhtaver S. Mahajan and Suma Nair)

The new initiative, Health and Environment : Action-based Learning (HEAL), attempts to bring health and environment concerns on a common platform. This programme is executed in collaboration with the National Service Scheme (NSS) of the University of Mumbai, which will see the participation of about one thousand college students, in Navi Mumbai. This three year (2004-07) programme has two components: Field work and Orientation Course.

Fieldwork: A two-pronged strategy is followed here. Teachers, oriented and trained at HBCSE, will supervise students to monitor the health profiles of peoples, and quality of environment (air, water, soil, green cover and waste facilities) of an area. This is by carrying out surveys, collecting data and performing experiments in selected sites according to HBCSE-prepared protocols and data sheets. Besides leading to a culture of scientific data collection and analysis, this methodology has the potential of creating mass awareness and sensitizing our young students (and adults) about these important issues.

Orientation Course for Student Volunteers: This is a six-month Course, starting August/September, with weekly lectures by experts covering different topics of health and environment. This Course is aimed to give additional academic credence to the fieldwork programme and to deepen the scientific understanding of students about these issues.

Certificates will be issued to all participants of the programme. For further details of HEAL, contact the Centre Director or Programme Co-ordinators at HBCSE.

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Health Education Project (HEP, 1994-1996):

The Health Education project aimed at understanding students' ideas about health in general and about air-borne and gastro-intestinal diseases in particular. The project was motivated by the fact that a large section of Indian population, including students, is chronically sick and malnourished, despite the fact that Indian school science textbooks discuss different aspects of health and environment right from class 1 and formally expose students to health concepts such as, nutrition, infectious diseases, agents causing these diseases, personal hygiene and public health measures.

The study was conducted in Maharashtra. The sample consisted of students from three different groups, an English medium urban school; a Marathi medium urban school; and those attending a tribal residential school in a remote rural area, with Marathi as the medium of instruction. These three sub-samples of students represented different sections of society with the last sub-sample having a distinct culture of its own. The students were studying in class 10, and were tested when the health-related topics in the biology syllabus had been covered in their classes.

Three different tasks were used: The pilot study consisted of a totally open-ended task wherein students were asked to write whatever came to their mind in connection with health (36 students, ENG-URB); The same students were provided with key words related to different factors of health and were again asked to write what came to their mind. Finally, a multiple-choice questionnaire of 32 questions was administered in 1994 (212 students) and again in 1995 (170 students). Eight factors related to health were covered by the multiple-choice questionnaire. These factors primarily emerged from the pilot study and were: biological agents, nutritional, physical, environmental, social, psychological, addictive and genetic.

Overall, students had a sound understanding of physical, psychological and addictive aspects of health, while their understanding of biological and environmental aspects was fair. With respect to social, nutritional and genetic factors however, students in all three schools performed poorly.

The tribal students' performance was significantly poor when compared to the urban students in seven of the eight factors (except biological). Female students performed better than their male counterparts on all the eight given factors and the differences were statistically significant for five of the eight factors: ie, biological, nutritional, physical, social and psychological.

Preliminary results of this project were presented at the Gender and Science and Technology (GASAT8) International Conference at Ahmedabad in January 1996 and have been published in the proceedings of the Conference. A technical report on the project was completed in March 1996 and a paper titled Indian secondary students' understanding of different aspects of health, was published in the International Journal of Science Education, 21, (11), 1155-1168, 1999.

(B.S. Mahajan and Sugra Chunawala)



  • Bakhtaver S Mahajan and Sugra Chunawala; Indian secondary students' understanding of different aspects of health, International Journal of Science Education, 21, (11), 1155-1168, 1999

  • Bakhtaver S. Mahajan, Sugra Chunawala, Samata Shitut and N. Deshmukh: Health Education Programme: Technical Report No. 27; HBCSE, 1996

  • Bakhtaver S. Mahajan, Samata Shitut and Sugra Chunawala: Understanding Of Health Issues By Indian Students: GASAT8, Gender and Science and Technology International Conference, Ahmedabad, India, Conference Proceedings: Volume Three: pp 589-591, 1996

Book/ In Book

  • Bakhtaver Mahajan and Chitra Natarajan: Health Matters, Activity Based Foundation Course on Science, Technology and Society, Chitra Natarajan (Series editor), HBCSE, January 1999.

  • Chitra Natarajan: Incineration for Waste Management, in R.K.Trivedi (Ed.) Encyclopedia of Environmental Pollution and Control, Vol.2, Karad, India: Enviro Media, pp 1-28 (1995).


Projects for Post Graduate Examination in Ecology and Environment conducted by the New Delhi Extension Centre of Sikkim Manipal University

  • Lalita Prabhakar, Atomic Energy Education Society, Mumbai, “Water Management Needs and Perceptions, A Case Study” (2005), Guide: Chitra Natarajan

  • Sadhana Choudhary, Children Aid Society's High School, Mankhurd, Mumbai, “Building Environmental Awareness among Middle School Students Through In-School and Out-of-School Activities” (2006), Guide: Chitra Natarajan

Technical Reports/ Internal Reports