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Explore the concepts, language and use of the terms common to school health communication
By signing onto the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, Canada made a commitment to ensure that all children are treated with dignity and respect and have every opportunity to reach their full potential. This commitment includes:
- Providing children opportunities to have a voice (speak out and be heard)
- Protecting children from harm
- Ensuring children’s basic needs are met
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Comprehensive school health framework is an internationally recognized approach to supporting improvements in students’ educational outcomes while addressing school health in a planned, integrated and holistic way.
This whole-school model builds capacity to incorporate well-being as an essential aspect of student achievement. Actions address four distinct but inter-related components that comprise a comprehensive school health approach:
- social and physical environment
- teaching and learning
- partnerships and services.
When actions in all four components are harmonized, students are supported to realize their full potential as learners – and as healthy, productive members of society.
Downstream interventions and strategies focus on providing equitable access to care and services to mitigate the negative impacts of disadvantage on health. (Canadian National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health)
A condition or state of fair, inclusive, and respectful treatment of all members of the school community, regardless of individual differences. All persons have the opportunity to participate fully and to experience success, well-being, and dignity while developing the skills, knowledge, and attitudes necessary to contribute meaningfully to society.
Embedded in this definition are the following points:
- Equity does not mean treating all people the same
- Equity means ‘raising the bar and closing the gap’
- Equity works to avoid and overcome inequalities that infringe on fairness and human rights norms. (JCSH Equity Task Group, 2016).
JCSH acknowledges the Health in All Policies definition supported by the National Collaborating Centre for Public Policy.
“Health in All Policies is an approach to public policies across sectors that systematically takes into account the health implications of decisions, seeks synergies, and avoids harmful health impacts in order to improve population health and health equity. It improves accountability of policymakers for health impacts at all levels of policy-making”.
JCSH acknowledges WHO’s definition of a health-promoting school.
The WHO definition describes a health-promoting school as ‘one that constantly strengthens its capacity as a healthy setting for living, learning and working’.
A health-promoting school:
- Fosters health and learning with all the measures at its disposal.
- Engages health and education officials, teachers, teachers’ unions, students, parents, health providers and community leaders in efforts to make the school a healthy place.
- Strives to provide a healthy environment, school health education, and school health services along with school/community projects and outreach, health promotion programs for staff, nutrition and food safety programs, opportunities for physical education and recreation, and programs for counselling, social support and mental health promotion.
- Implements policies and practices that respect an individual’s well-being and dignity, provide multiple opportunities for success and acknowledge good efforts and intentions as well as personal achievements.
- Strives to improve the health of school personnel, families and community members as well as pupils; and works with community leaders to help them understand how the community contributes to or undermines health and education.
Health-promoting schools focus on:
- Caring for oneself and others
- Making healthy decisions and taking control over life’s circumstances
- Creating conditions that are conducive to health (through policies, services, physical/social conditions)
- Building capacities for peace, shelter, education, food, income, a stable ecosystem, equity, social justice, sustainable development.
- Preventing leading causes of death, disease and disability: helminths, tobacco use, HIV/AIDS/STDs, sedentary lifestyle, drugs and alcohol, violence and injuries, unhealthy nutrition.
- Influencing health-related behaviours: knowledge, beliefs, skills, attitudes, values, support.
Health promotion is the process of enabling people to increase control over, and to improve, their health. To reach a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, an individual or group must be able to identify and to realize aspirations, to satisfy needs, and to change or cope with the environment. Health is, therefore, seen as a resource for everyday life, not the objective of living. Health is a positive concept emphasizing social and personal resources, as well as physical capacities. Therefore, health promotion is not just the responsibility of the health sector, but goes beyond healthy life-styles to well-being.
Positive mental health is a component of overall health and is shaped by individual, physical, environmental, social, cultural and socio-economic characteristics. Fostering the development of positive mental health by supporting individual resilience, creating supportive environments and addressing the influence of the broader determinants of mental health, are key components of promoting mental health (Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), 2009)
Ecological, asset or strength-based approaches that promote healthy child and youth development through supportive community environments and connections (Morrison and Peterson, 2013).
For more on Positive Mental Health and Positive Youth Development, see the Schools as a Setting for Positive Mental Health: Better Practices and Perspectives (2nd Ed. 2013). Click the button below to download the PDF.
SEL is the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.
SEL advances educational equity and excellence through authentic school-family-community partnerships to establish learning environments and experiences that feature trusting and collaborative relationships, rigorous and meaningful curriculum and instruction, and ongoing evaluation. SEL can help address various forms of inequity and empower young people and adults to co-create thriving schools and contribute to safe, healthy, and just communities.
Trauma-informed practice, sometimes known as trauma-sensitive practice or safe and supportive schools, creates a shared understanding and common language about how to create welcoming, caring, respectful and safe schools. (from Alberta.ca)
In order to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission makes the following calls to action. (from Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action)
The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is a global human rights instrument adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on September 13, 2007 as “the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world.” (Canadian National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation)
Upstream interventions and strategies focus on improving fundamental social and economic structures in order to decrease barriers and improve supports that allow people to achieve their full health potential. (Canadian National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health).
A set of practices that resonate with school communities and reflect diversity of families. They can answer the question: what are the wise practices of your community? A wise practices approach considers the variability and complexity of different community situations and sees culture, community, and heritage as protective factors, essential to comprehensive school health and health promoting schools (Thoms, 2007). Wise practices are reflective of Indigenous peoples’ worldview and ways of creating knowledge (Thoms, 2007), “locally appropriate actions, tools, principles or decisions that contribute significantly to the development of sustainable and equitable conditions” (Wesley-Esquimaux & Calliou, 2010, p.19) and rooted in local, Indigenous wisdom and teachings (Wise Practices, 2019). A wise practice approach is strength-based, community driven, and culturally respectful.