Growing Healthy

An Evidence-Based Practice

This practice has been Archived and is no longer maintained.


Growing Healthy is a comprehensive health education curriculum for elementary school students (kindergarten through sixth grade). The first comprehensive school health education program in the United States, Growing Healthy goes beyond traditional approaches to health education that concentrate on hygiene and disease to emphasize aspects of health such as personal health habits, values, self-esteem, and decision-making skills. It is based on the idea that if children understand how their bodies work and appreciate the range of biological, social, and environmental factors that affect their health, they will be more likely to begin good habits at an early age. Training is provided in several core areas: the biology of the human body; principles of health and wellness; health in the context of family, community, and the Nation; and life skills (interpersonal, problem-solving, critical thinking, decision-making, and creative thinking).

Growing Healthy is intended to be integrated with other curriculum areas such as science, reading, writing, mathematics, social studies, music, and art. The program meets the seven standards and performance indicators set forth in the National Health Education Standards. The curriculum is divided into six phases and consists of 43 to 51 lessons per grade level. Sessions are 45 minutes long. The curriculum can be taught several ways: two or three times a week throughout the academic year, several times a week for 1 semester, and fully integrated across subject areas. Full implementation of all phases of Growing Healthy requires about 50 hours of classroom instruction.

Goal / Mission

The main objective of Growing Healthy is to give students the tools to resist the social pressures to smoke, use alcohol or other drugs, and engage in other risky behavior.

Results / Accomplishments

Several evaluation studies show positive impacts of the curriculum. One study used a pretest-posttest comparison group design, tracking students over 2 school years. A 10-year study of the program used a posttest-only comparison group design, with testing after the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th, 9th, and 12th grades. In the 2-year study, evidence of program impacts include significantly lower levels of self-reported incidences of smoking among seventh grade program participants than among control group participants. Three times as many control group students began smoking in the beginning of the seventh grade. In comparison with students receiving other health education curricula, Growing Healthy students showed the strongest statistical effects on overall knowledge, attitudes, and behavior. A related study analyzed the impact of a second exposure to the curriculum in fifth and sixth grades and found that attitudes and behaviors benefited from a second exposure.

In the 10-year study, Growing Healthy students had significantly higher levels of knowledge about health and maintaining personal health than students in the comparison group. At seventh and ninth grade, the students in the intervention group showed statistically significant lower levels of experimentation with alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs than comparison group students showed.

About this Promising Practice

Primary Contact
Ray Marks, Ed.D.
National Center for Health Education
375 Hudson Street
New York, NY 10014
(212) 463-4053
Health / Children's Health
Health / Substance Abuse
Education / School Environment
National Center for Health Education
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's Model Programs Guide (MPG)
Date of publication
Target Audience