Open Access Highly Accessed Correspondence

Are the health messages in schoolbooks based on scientific evidence? A descriptive study

Inés M Barrio-Cantalejo1*, Luisa M Ayudarte-Larios2, Mariano Hernán-García3, Pablo Simón-Lorda3, José Francisco García-Gutiérrez3 and Jesús Martínez-Tapias4

Author Affiliations

1 Continuum Training and Research Department. Hospital of Baza, Spain

2 Nursing Supervisor in Virgen de las Nieves Hospital, Granada, Spain

3 Lecturer in Andalusian Public Health School, Granada, Spain

4 Medical director in Santa Ana Hospital. Motril, Granada, Spain

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:54  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-54

Published: 26 January 2011



Most textbooks contains messages relating to health. This profuse information requires analysis with regards to the quality of such information. The objective was to identify the scientific evidence on which the health messages in textbooks are based.


The degree of evidence on which such messages are based was identified and the messages were subsequently classified into three categories: Messages with high, medium or low levels of evidence; Messages with an unknown level of evidence; and Messages with no known evidence.


844 messages were studied. Of this total, 61% were classified as messages with an unknown level of evidence. Less than 15% fell into the category where the level of evidence was known and less than 6% were classified as possessing high levels of evidence. More than 70% of the messages relating to "Balanced Diets and Malnutrition", "Food Hygiene", "Tobacco", "Sexual behaviour and AIDS" and "Rest and ergonomics" are based on an unknown level of evidence. "Oral health" registered the highest percentage of messages based on a high level of evidence (37.5%), followed by "Pregnancy and newly born infants" (35%). Of the total, 24.6% are not based on any known evidence. Two of the messages appeared to contravene known evidence.


Many of the messages included in school textbooks are not based on scientific evidence. Standards must be established to facilitate the production of texts that include messages that are based on the best available evidence and which can improve children's health more effectively.