​​Using cross-cultural encounters as a means of health promotion among primary school students – the Move Eat Learn (MEL) project.

Although most children and young people are healthy, modern lifestyle poses serious health challenges such as obesity, a sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy eating practices, all of which may lead to acquiring type 2 diabetes (T2D) later in life. Therefore, it is important to make children and adolescents aware of these health risks, enable them to identify and act on barriers for healthy living and support and develop their capacity for acting on their own health.

The Move Eat Learn (MEL) project explores the potential of cross-cultural encounters as a tool to address this issue. We see cross-cultural learning as an approach that facilitates learning by utilising the meeting between cultures to raise curiosity and create authenticity, insight into others’ world and reflection about one self – as an individual and as part of a culture and a society. It is an explicit choice of the project to strive for sustainability by integrating health promotion activities in the day-to-day education activities, thereby making it an ‘add-in’ rather than an ‘add on’.


To  strengthen the cross-cultural competences of pupils, teachers and administrators in Gentofte municipality and Kenyan partner schools in order to develop didactic models to promote cross-cultural learning processes, global understanding and health educational insights.

The hypothesis is that cross-cultural encounters are a generic and powerful tool for health promotion that can be applied all sorts of populations groups and within all settings.

Design and method

Health Promotion Research is responsible for the process evaluation. This entails methodologies inspired by action research that underlines the importance of engaging actively with people and communities in order to generate mutual knowledge development on potentials for change. A total of six iterative evaluation cycles (Burns 2014) are being implemented, which systematically captures the lessons learnt from teachers as well as students.

Target group

Overall, children and adolescents constitute the main target group, with a view to increase and maintain their health and prevent the development of non-communicable diseases, such as T2D, later in their lives.
We are also targeting teachers working with children and adolescents as well as professionals in local administrations.

Expected ending and outcome

The MEL project will come to an end late 2016, though some of the cross-cultural education activities will continue as an integrated part of the school activities. During the past three years we have developed, tested and implemented new and innovative health education concepts, tools and approaches in concrete school settings.

It has become evident that cross-cultural encounters create authentic and motivating learning processes because communication and collaboration is between ‘real’ people and insight into other forms of cultural practices (at many different levels). This knowledge generates insight into one’s own ‘taken-for-granted’ cultural practices and highlights differences and similarities between people and cultures. The project has led to: 1) highly motivated students and teachers; 2) fruitful collaboration between practitioners and researchers and 3) numerous dissemination activities at various levels.

A full set of “ready to use” teaching materials have been developed:

  • Math – statistics (My Typical Day)
    - awareness about movement in daily life
  • Home economics (Food culture)
    - awareness about the food we eat
  • Music (Music videos)
    - movement and dance
  • Physical exercise
    - exercise
  • English (Jambo!)


Municipality of Gentofte
Muthaiga Primary School, Nairobi, Kenya.
The project is sponsored by Danish International Development Assistance (Danida)


Burns (2014) Systemic action research: Changing system dynamics to support sustainable change. Action Research, 12(1): 3-18.

Larsen et al. (2014) ICT-based, cross-cultural communication – a methodological perspective. International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology, 10(1): pp.107-120.

Bruselius-Jensen, Maria (2013): Cross-cultural communication as an approach to health education. Oral presentation at 21st IUHPE World Conference on Health Promotion August 25-29, 2013 in Pattaya, Thailand.

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