Internet review

Health Education

ISSN: 0965-4283

Article publication date: 30 August 2011



(2011), "Internet review", Health Education, Vol. 111 No. 5.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Internet review

Article Type: Internet review From: Health Education, Volume 111, Issue 5

Healthy schools

The concept of the health promoting school was first suggested by the World Health Organisation in 1995 in which a health promoting school was defined as one in which “ … all members of the school community work together to provide pupils with integrated and positive experiences and structures, which promote and protect their health. This includes both the formal and the informal curriculum in health, the creation of a safe and healthy school environment, the provision of appropriate health services and the involvement of the family and wider community in efforts to promote health.”

The Healthy Schools scheme in the UK, has been running for a number of years now and many schools have achieved healthy schools status. The basic tenets of this scheme are laudable with the aim of turning schools into health promoting organisations. In the UK, the Healthy Schools web site has recently undergone a major review and although some content is still available, from March 2011, the healthy schools initiative will be managed from the Department for Education web site, details below. In North America, the equivalent of the Healthy Schools programme is run by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation which is a not for profit organisation supported by the American Heart Association and the Bill Clinton Foundation.

In this review the Healthy Schools initiatives that have arisen in different parts of the world will be compared and examples of good practice described.

Healthy Schools:

At the time of writing this web site was still the primary resource for individuals and schools who want to find out more about this initiative. It seems likely that even if this web site moves to the Department for Education,, as has been suggested, then the content will not change significantly and therefore this review will still be relevant. The Healthy Schools programme has existed since 1999 and it has always had the central aim of delivering benefits in a number of areas. Specifically, the healthy schools programme aims to improve health and reduce healh inequalities, promote closer working between health promotion providers and education establishments. More widely the healthy schools initiative also seeks to increase social inclusion and raise pupil achievement.

The web site is very good at explaining the underlying philosophy of the scheme and sets out clearly the four themes of the Healthy Schools programme, i.e. PHSE, Healthy Eating, Physical Activity, and Emotional Health and Well-Being. The web site has a number of excellent resources, admittedly aimed at school staff, rather than parents or pupils, but these resources, in the form of leaflets and handbooks, explain in great detail the processes and procedures required of schools who want to become health promoting organisations.

Finally, the web site has a shop where schools can purchase a whole range of related items including note pads and keyrings, stickers, even skipping ropes and biodegradable bags. In the shop there is also a section labelled “Free Stuff”, but unfortunately, at the time of writing, this section was empty!

Alliance for a Healthier Generation:

This is almost the equivalent of the UK Healthy Schools web site, but in this North American web site the focus is rather more specific, with obesity being the main focus. The first section of this web site, not surprisingly, deals with healthy snacks and school meals. However, this section does not offer children advice on what they should be eating or avoiding, rather it provides school staff with a number of tools that help them source healthy meals and snacks for their pupils. It also offers advice on how schools can work together to improve their buying power and thus save money. All very useful for schools but a user might have at least expected to find a little guidance on how to improve the eating habits of children.

The next section deals with Physical Activity and thankfully is rather more practical in the advice offered. This includes guidance on how to increase physical activity in children, how to organise safe walking and cycling, and there is also a very good section for teachers on how to incorporate physical activities in all aspects of their teaching. For example it is suggested that teachers might use “walk and talk” breaks where classes go for a short walk and discuss what they have learned in class. Or teachers might use “fitness alarms” when, at predetermined times, an alarm goes off and everyone has to participate in some form of physical acivity for a few minutes.

In terms of ideas that teachers might use with their pupils, this web site is an excellent resource. Even though the content is based around the North American school system and so not everything is relevant, much of what is on offer can be quite easily transferred to schools in other parts of the world.

Centre for Health Promotion:

In South Australia the healthy schools initiative is overseen by the Centre forHealth Promotion. This web site is very well designed and presented but users should be aware that the content is aimed very much at the health education professional rather than school children,or even teachers. The Healthy Schools programme is just one of several programmes that are described and the Healthy Schools programme is itself divided into a number of different initiatives. The Better Health, Better Learning section is interesting in that it provides a set of guidelines and a checklist to help facilitate the implementation of a healthy schools policy. This is particularly useful for teachers and health educators who are based in Australia, though much of he content can be generalised else where as well.

Of particular interest to many users will be the Case Studies section in which a number of different examples of healthy schools programmes are described. The criteria for selection of these case studies is not made clear but there is sufficient diversity to interest most users.

For teachers or health educators who are actively contemplating a healthy schools programme, there is one section that should not be missed. “Features of successful school health promotion programs” provides a series of bullet points on what is required to make any school health promotion activity a success. To complement this there is also a list of things that should be avoided if you want your health promotion scheme to be a success.

Although not the most exciting of web sites, for health education professionals, and to some extent teachers, this web site offers a wealth of support and good ideas.

World Health Organisation:

You might expect that an organisation like the World Health Organisation would be more concerned with healthy schools from a strategic or global perspective. While this is true to some extent, this web site does contain resources that health educators and teachers can use as part of their own healthy schools programme. At the most basic level the web site provides a good definition of what a health promoting school actually is. Further than this it also provides guidance on what health promoting schools should focus on, for example making healthy decisions, creating conditions that are conducive to health, capacity building in the context of health, but also including social justice and aspects of the environment that are relevant to health.

For health educators or teachers who want help in setting up a healthy schools programme, the web site provides “Resources and Tools for Advocacy” which is a database of healthy schools related projects that can be used to help inform or persuade others of the benefits of healthy schools programmes. This database is extensive and deals with every topic imaginable including emotional well-being, reproductive health, nutrition and even tropical diseases, very important if your school is in some of the more exotic parts of the world.

While this WHO web site, of necessity, focuss on global issues rather than the more “hands-on” approaches of other web sites, it is nevertheless an interesting web site providing a wider perspective of the healthy schools programmes.

Health Promoting Schools – Fife:

While the work of the national and international organisations reviewed above is important, for many health education practitioners their contact with organisations that can help them directly, is more likely to be at the local authority level, and Fife is an excellent example of this. This web site is simply designed, yet it is attractive and very easy to use. The home page looks rather like a leaflet and it belies the considerable amount of content that is available. For the teacher, in particular, who wants a straight forward guide to setting up a healthy school programme, this web site is ideal. It takes the user through all the stages required and includes a superb “toolkit” to help with all the detailed planning required before and during implementation. The list of publications is extensive and includes both pdf formatted documents and powerpoint presentations.

The “Events and Good Practice” section will be well received, not only by those who are new to healthy schools programmes, but also the more experienced practitioner who is looking for good ideas to supplement an existing programme.

Obviously this web site has been designed for a local authority in Scotland and therefore not all of the examples cited, particularly in the news and event sections, will alays be entirely releant to users from outside Scotland. But users should not let this detract from what is otherwise a very good example of a healthy schools web site.

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