Sowing seeds to harvest healthier adults: The working principles and impact of participatory health research with children in a primary school context

Tineke Abma, Sarah Lips, Janine Schrijver

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5 Citations (Scopus)


Participatory research on health-related topics with children is promising but current literature offers limited guidance on how to involve children and falls short on the reporting impact. The purpose of this article is to heighten our understanding of the working principles and impact of participatory health research (PHR) with children. We completed a PHR project in two primary schools, which included children from a multiethnic, deprived neighborhood in the second largest city in The Netherlands over a period of three school years (2016–2019). The impact on the children’s subjective health has been measured via process evaluation using qualitative and quantitative methods from the perspectives of all involved (children, their teachers, parents, and community partners). The main working principles included: Experiential learning; addressing uncomfortable issues; stepping outside your environment; and keeping it simple. Participatory actions valued most by the children included: Walking tours, photovoice, foodlabs, sportlabs, and to a lesser extent: Making a newspaper, mindfulness, and Capoeira. The project reached and engaged many children, parents, teachers, and community partners into healthy lifestyles and broadened and deepened the children’s awareness and understanding of health behavior. ‘Sowing seeds’ is the metaphor that captures the broader impact of this project: Planting seeds to harvest healthier adults.

Original languageEnglish
Article number451
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2020


  • Children
  • Creativity
  • Empowerment
  • Impact
  • Participatory action research
  • Primary schools

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