Key Focus Areas

Comprehensive School Health

What Is Comprehensive School Health?

CSH is an internationally recognized framework for supporting improvements in students' educational outcomes while addressing school health in a planned, integrated and holistic way.

For a short and simple explanation of CSH, please view the video below.

Note: The language describing the four pillars of CSH have evolved since the creation of this video.  The updated language reflects input from BC educators on what resonated best with them and their students, see below.

The CSH framework helps educators, health practitioners, school staff, students and others to work together to create an environment that makes their school the best place possible to learn, work and play. It is important to recognize that CSH does not require more work; it is just a way of working that becomes everyday practice.

Comprehensive School Health:

  • recognizes that healthy young people learn better and achieve more;
  • understands that schools can directly influence students' health and behaviours;
  • encourages healthy lifestyle choices, and promotes students' health and well-being;
  • incorporates health into all aspects of school and learning, acknowledging that health is
  • more than just the absence of illness;
  • links health and education issues and systems; and, needs the participation and support of families and the community at large.

Where does the idea of CSH come from?

The principles of CSH are drawn from two World Health Organization documents: the 1986 Ottawa Charter on Health Promotion, and the 1997 Jakarta Declaration. The Ottawa Charter was signed at the first-ever international conference for health promotion, which was held in Ottawa. The Jakarta Declaration, signed at a subsequent conference, reiterated the principles of the Ottawa Charter and emphasized the importance of combining multiple strategies for health promotion. Both documents speak to health promotion in general and have been used to guide the development of healthy schools programs.

The Ottawa Charter is particularly relevant as schools provide the ideal setting for encouraging participation, education and the development of personal skills and empowerment with a supportive environment. The "settings" approach to health promotion shifts the focus from the individual to the whole school community.

The Jakarta Declaration recognizes the need to develop partnerships between different sectors at all levels and describes key elements of health promotion, including:

  • a setting approach that offers practical opportunities for implementing comprehensive strategies; and,
  • active participation in health promotion action and decision making.

 

By incorporating CSH into everyday practice, healthy schools learn to plan, coordinate and deliver healthy school activities and strategies without adding to workload. As they review and reflect on their progress and improvements to students' health and learning over time, they can better plan future actions. Embracing CSH can make a significant difference in the health of students, the school, and the community as a whole.

CSH Pillars

CSH extends far beyond what happens in the classroom. It encompasses the whole school environment with actions in four distinct but inter-related areas:

CSH Relationships and Environments Icon Relationships and Environments - This pillar is about 1) the social environment, such as the quality of relationships and emotional well-being and 2) the physical spaces in the school, such as buildings, equipment, and outdoor areas.
CSH Teaching and Learning Icon Teaching and learning - This pillar is not about “teachers” and “students” but about teaching and learning opportunities, both inside the classroom and out, that help to build knowledge and skills to improve health and well being.
CSH Community Partnerships Icon Community Partnerships - Referring to connections between the school and the community, including parents, other schools, community organizations and health professionals. This pillar can also refer to partnerships within the school such as between-class partnerships.
CSH Our School Policies Icon Our School Policies - This pillar refers to provincial, district, school, or classroom policies, rules, procedures and or codes of conducts at all levels that help to shape a caring and safe school environment and promote student health and well being.

 

The four pillars of CSH listed above have been adapted from the Pan-Canadian Joint Consortium on School Health (JCSH) to resonate best with BC educators and students.  The JCSH is a partnership between health and education departments from most of Canada's provinces and territories and the federal government.  The framework created by the JCSH is endorsed by the World Health Organization. To learn more about the JCSH, click here.

What are the benefits of CSH?

Research consistently shows that health and education are connected1. Children and youth cannot achieve their fullest potential as learners if their physical, mental, intellectual or emotional health is compromised.

Similarly, learning has a positive influence on students' health - both in the short- and long-term. For example, students who enjoy nutritious foods and regular physical activity will not only learn better, they're forming healthy habits that will help to support their well-being for a lifetime.

Research shows that a CSH approach can help schools achieve2:

  • better learning outcomes for students;
  • better health and well-being for students, educators and staff;
  • more effective learning and teaching; and,
  • a more cooperative and connected school environment.

The benefits also extend beyond the school and its students. Because CSH involves community partners and service providers who, in many cases, provide support for families and others, using the CSH approach can also encourage3:

  • increased feelings of support from school;
  • improved behavior and healthy choices at home and in the community;
  • enhanced resources and opportunities;
  • development of unique networks of services and programs for all; and,
  • increased understanding of connections between curriculum and real life.

 

For more information on the benefits of CSH, please visit the research page of the HSP.

Who can participate?

Partnership is one of the most important aspects of Comprehensive School Health. To maximize the benefits, all members of the school community work together to make the school the best possible place to learn, work and play.

In addition to students, families, educators and school staff, partners in creating a healthy school may include any or all of the following:

  • health promotion specialists;
  • public health nurses;
  • dietitians and community nutritionist;
  • staff from local parks or recreation facilities;
  • local businesses (e.g., donating sports equipment or sponsoring activities);
  • local interest groups (e.g., garden club, chess club); and
  • other community service providers that support and promote student and staff health and well-being.

 

1Hertzman, C. & Power, C. (2005). A Life Course Approach to Health and Human Development. Healthier Societies: From Analysis to Action (pp. 83-106). New York: Oxford University Press.

2Stewart-Brown, S. (2006). What is the evidence on school health promotion in improving health or preventing disease and specifically what is the effectiveness of the health promoting schools approach? Copenhagen, WHO Regional Office for Europe. (Health Evidence Network report; http://www.euro.who.int/document/e88185.pdf, accessed Feb. 26, 2011).

3Epstein, Joyce and others. (2008). School, Family and Community Partnerships: Your Handbook for Action. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.