Promoting Health, Promoting School Success: An Exploration of Healthy Schools Policy in Four Cultural Settings in the EU and Canada
Considerable research shows the reciprocal relationship between health and education. While schools are primarily concerned with education, it is now recognised that they are ideal places to carry out health promotion. There is a substantial body of evidence showing that school success is related to health. The less privileged a child or young person’s background, the stronger the relationship.
This paper investigates the framing of policy around health promotion in schools in four different locations: France, the Canton of Vaud in Switzerland, and the provinces of Quebec and Ontario in Canada. It also explores how the shared concepts of ‘healthy schools’ and ‘health promotion’ are interpreted and implemented in these different cultural settings.
This paper is based on an analysis of related policy documentation and research literature, as well as expert interviews with key stakeholders involved in formulating and delivering health promotion in schools in the four locations, including those in the ministries of health and education, institutes of public health, boards of education and schools. Interviews were conducted in either French or English, transcribed and analysed on the basis of key themes identified in the literature.
In all four study locations there was a mutually shared commitment to school health promotion among key stakeholders, with recent moves to further strengthen the policy framework. Understandings of health and the healthy person were clearly influenced by broader cultural agendas. While there was considerable task sharing among health and education agencies in each location, there were differing levels of tension at the school level between achieving more formal and measurable educational goals and the less clearly defined ones relating to health and wellbeing.
The study forms part of a larger Japan Society for the Promotion of Science funded project on EU and Canadian healthy schools policy and practice.