Health Promoting Schools (HPS) is an approach where the whole school community works together to address the health and wellbeing of students, staff and their community. Schools include health and wellbeing in their planning and review processes, teaching strategies, curriculum and assessment activities.
HPS was developed by the World Health Organization in the late 1980s. They define a Health Promoting School as one ‘that constantly strengthens its capacity as a healthy setting for living, learning and working’.
New Zealand’s HPS journey began in 1991. From the outset, HPS has been based on the principles of the 1986 Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion. It addresses all aspects of hauora – physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual wellbeing.
Many schools have joined HPS over the years. In 2009, around 67 percent were part of the programme. They are supported by advisors from public health units, district health boards or local government, who are contracted by the Ministry of Health to support HPS.
Despite its long history in New Zealand, HPS has been limited by a lack of infrastructure and robust evaluation. Research has shown a need for:
- long-term strategic direction
- evidence-based planning and delivery
- evaluation and policy commitment.
In 2010 the Ministry of Health commissioned Cognition to develop a national strategic framework. This framework aims to support national consistency and evidence-based best practice. In doing so, it will make HPS more effective at improving student health and educational outcomes.
The framework was developed using a comprehensive research, advisory and consultation process. The Executive Summary and supporting Literature Review can be downloaded from the HPS website.
The National Strategic Framework
Being healthy and being able to learn are closely linked. The HPS inquiry cycle helps school communities to:
- identify and prioritise the health and wellbeing needs that contribute to inequities within the school community
- develop ways of meeting these needs and taking action that builds on the strengths within the school community
- monitor and review the HPS process.
HPS builds bridges between the different groups in a school community: child, whānau/family, education, health and social service organisations. With HPS, all these groups work together to make a difference to the community’s health.
For further information about HPS and the HPS inquiry cycle (including research, case studies, resources and an online learning community), please visit the Health Promoting Schools website.