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Health in Schools

The Law on Guidance and Programming for Restructuring the Schools of the Republic articulates in Article 6 that "Actions to promote student health are integral to the National Education mission." This viewpoint was further emphasized in the health education directive (Circular No. 2016008, dated January 28, 2016). Consequently, the health policy emphasizes health promotion, while incorporating every aspect within the school environment. Hence, the "health promotion in schools" approach is deemed as a fundamental pillar in maintaining well-being and diminishing the early emergence of inequalities.

The concept of health promotion was introduced in 1984 and formally established in 1986, following the inaugural international conference on health promotion that took place in Ottawa from November 17 to 21, 1986. Health promotion is characterized as the process of enabling individuals in a community to exert more control over their health, leading to enhancements in their well-being (WHO, 1986).

The adoption of the core principles from Ottawa Charter (1986) underscores the significant influence the 1980s had on the concept of health. Viewed from a biomedical perspective, health is recognized as a comprehensive and positive concept, evolving over time. This perspective highlights the value of a holistic approach to health education, which integrates the efforts of various stakeholders in education and health promotion, each contributing their unique expertise.

Several circulars implemented in the early 2000s positioned schools within a broader health policy framework aimed at benefiting learners, recognizing the state of health as a factor in academic and educational success. The role of schools in health promotion is defined by critical and distinct objectives: to ensure the well-being of learners, contribute to their success, and assist in the development of their individual and collective identities.

Following the educational reform implemented in 2021, the duty of imparting health education is shared among all teachers and physical education instructors. This mission underscores a shift in mindset, recognizing that health is not solely the concern of healthcare professionals but a collective responsibility. Simply put, it calls for teamwork across multiple professions. Furthermore, the World Health Organization's Ottawa Charter of 1986 emphasizes the pivotal role of schools in encouraging students to adopt health-positive behaviors. Schools are central to the promotion of health among the learners. Achieving this goal, however, depends on the effective collaboration and partnership between various stakeholders in both the educational framework and the community where the child lives. The influence of schools on student health is manifest in both the curriculum and the organizational climate, positioning health education as an ongoing, collective endeavor.

Collaborating on health education in schools entails a unified and synergistic effort to provide each student with daily experiences that foster their overall development and self-esteem. It involves helping them understand their origins, define their aspirations, live harmoniously with others, and respect and protect their environment. This approach also includes creating opportunities for health in all its aspects to inform learning processes. This means learning to make informed choices, finding ways to support those choices, taking control independently and responsibly over one's decisions and life, and learning to assist others in gaining similar autonomy. It's about developing critical thinking, engaging in civic duties, and advocating for rights and social justice.

 For this initiative to be successful, all stakeholders within the educational system must place health, well-being, and educational achievement on the same pedestal. The challenge then becomes ensuring that the teaching and learning tools are comprehensive, coherent, and complementary across different subjects and educational stages, making the learning journey meaningful for students throughout their schooling.

Health promotion within schools is recognized as a key strategy for enhancing the well-being of learners. To achieve the highest standards of quality education, it's crucial to embrace an approach that views health from a holistic, multifaceted, and long-term perspective. This approach should offer various alternatives to address health issues and counteract fragmented actions within political establishments, the physical and social environments, health services, and the interactions among the educational community, especially families. Additionally, the health education curriculum and the development of psychosocial skills are fundamental components.

La réforme de l’éducation mise en application (The education reform implemented). (2021).

WHO. (1986). Ottawa Charter. International Conference on Health Promotion.

Orientation et de programmation pour la refondation de l'école de la République (Law on Guidance and Programming for Restructuring the Schools of the Republic). (2013).

Santé en milieu scolaire (Health in school settings). (2020).

Tenne, H. B.-F. (2022). La santé à l’école (Health in schools).

Julnor Lamarre