UNESCO and WHO urge countries to make every school a health-promoting school


UNESCO and the World Health Organization on 22nd Jun. 2021 launched the Global Standards for Health-promoting Schools, a resource package for schools to improve the health and well-being of 1.9 billion school-aged children and adolescents. The closure of many schools around the world during the COVID-19 pandemic has caused severe disruptions to education. An estimated 365 million primary school students have gone without school meals and significantly increased rates of stress, anxiety and other mental health issues have been observed.

Based on a set of eight global standards, the resource package aims to ensure all schools promote life skills, cognitive and socioemotional skills and healthy lifestyles for all learners. These global standards will be piloted in Botswana, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Paraguay. The initiative contributes to WHO's 13th General Program of Work target of ‘1 billion lives made healthier’ by 2023 and the global Education 2030 Agenda coordinated by UNESCO.

The global standards provide a resource for education systems to help foster health and well-being through stronger governance. UNESCO and WHO will work with governments to enable countries to adapt the package to their specific contexts. The evidence is clear. Comprehensive school health and nutrition programmes in schools have significant impacts among school-aged children. For example:

*School health and nutrition interventions for girls and boys in low-income areas where worms and anaemia are prevalent can lead to 2.5 years of additional schooling.
*Malaria prevention interventions can result in a 62% reduction in absenteeism.
*Nutritious school meals increase enrolment rates by 9% on average, and attendance by 8%; they can also reduce anaemia in adolescent girls by up to 20%.
*Hand-washing promotion reduces absenteeism due to gastrointestinal and respiratory illnesses by 21% -61% in low-income countries.
*Free screening and eyeglasses have led to a 5% higher probability of students passing standardized tests in reading and math.
*Comprehensive sexuality education encourages the adoption of healthier behaviours, promotes sexual and reproductive health and rights, and improves sexual and reproductive health outcomes such as the reduction of HIV infection and adolescent pregnancy rates.
*Improving water and sanitation (WASH) services and supplies in school, as well as knowledge on menstrual hygiene, equips girls to maintain their body hygiene and health with dignity, and may limit the number of school days missed during menstruation.
The Health Promoting Schools approach was first articulated by WHO, UNESCO and UNICEF in 1995 and adopted in over 90 countries and territories. However, few countries have implemented it at scale, and even fewer have effectively adapted their education systems to include health promotion. The new global standards will help countries to integrate health promotion into all schools and boost the health and well-being of their children.

Source: UNESCO