What is a “Comprehensive School Health Approach”?

Comprehensive school health (CSH) is an approach rather than a program or initiative. An internationally recognized framework, CSH addresses school health in a planned, integrated, and holistic way in order to support improvements in student achievement and well-being.

This approach to student health and learning outcomes involves the entire school community, not only what happens in the classroom. It is a way of thinking and acting that takes a subject like mathematics and applies it to work being done in the school garden, or an issue like bullying and involves parents and community partners as well as a peer-led approach to healthy relationships and self-regulation. CSH is the mechanism through which issues such as physical activity, positive mental health, or injury prevention are addressed in school.

Different Terminology, Same Ideas

The term “comprehensive school health” is widely used in Canada. In some provinces and territories, and in other countries, the approach may be also known as ‘health promoting school’, ‘healthy schools’, or ‘coordinated school health’, and its components may be expressed in different ways. However, the underlying concepts are the same; they are all based on the World Health Organization’s Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion (1986).

Comprehensive School Health in Canada

Effective, sustainable progress in comprehensive school health depends on a common vision, shared responsibilities and harmonized actions among health, education and other sectors. The challenge is to coordinate these efforts so that partners pool resources and develop action plans together with, and in support of schools. In Canada, the Pan-Canadian Joint Consortium for School Health models, supports and encourages the partnerships between health and education that are essential to comprehensive school health. It works across provincial, territorial and federal governments to better coordinate and integrate efforts that champion improved health and learning for children and youth. For more information on comprehensive school health in Canada, contact the Consortium at inquiry@jcsh-cces.ca , or visit www.jcsh-cces.ca.