School Health

Health and education are closely connected and research shows that healthy students are better learners. Since young people spend most of their day in school, this setting has an important role in the health of children and youth.

This page includes information about approaches and initiatives to school health, including an explanation of Comprehensive School Health, a description of the Pan-Canadian Joint Consortium for School Health, and further information about how the Public Health Agency of Canada supports school health.

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About comprehensive school health

Comprehensive school health is an internationally recognized approach that supports:

  • improving the outcomes of student education
  • addressing school health in a holistic way (achieved by focusing actions outside of the traditional classroom, and looking at the whole school environment)

We can encourage healthy living for students by teaching them about good health behaviours and assisting school administrators in incorporating health and wellbeing into all aspects of school and learning. This can include:

  • offering healthy food choices
  • promoting physical activity
  • encouraging positive relationships with teachers and peers
  • creating school policies that support good health

Long term, research shows that comprehensive school health helps students develop the skills needed for academic success and to be physically and emotionally healthy for life.

Components

A comprehensive school health approach has four distinct but inter-related parts:

  • policy
  • teaching and learning
  • partnerships and services
  • social and physical environment

When we direct our actions to all four components, we support students to realize their full potential as learners and as healthy, productive members of society.

Pan-Canadian Joint Consortium for School Health (JCSH)

Provincial, territorial, and federal governments established the Pan-Canadian Joint Consortium for School Health (JCSH) in 2005. It has members from ministries related to health and education from most provinces and territories. Its purpose is to:

  • bring representatives from the provincial and territorial education and health systems together to support the health, well-being, and achievement of children and youth in Canadian schools
  • collaborate on shared priorities about student health

Since each province and territory has their own initiatives to develop and foster healthy school environments for students, the JCSH aims to be a common voice on:

  • the promotion of comprehensive school health in Canada
  • the general wellness and success of all Canadian students

The JCSH also develops resources that can help to create and support a healthy school environment. Some examples include:

  • Positive Mental Health Toolkit: designed to guide schools in promoting positive mental health practices and perspectives.
  • Healthy School Planner: can assess the school's health environment and suggest improvements.
  • Youth Engagement Toolkit: provides resources and effective practices to support youth engagement as a key approach to implementing comprehensive school health.

The JCSH also issues an annual report to summarize the group's collective progress on supporting healthy school environments.

These toolkits and the JCSH annual report are publicly available through the JCSH website.

How we support school health

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) recognises the important link between health and education. We support the JCSH's efforts to promote the health and well-being of children and youth through the comprehensive school health model. We do this by:

  • representing the JCSH on a federal level
  • collaborating with other JCSH members as an advisor and observer at committee meetings and task groups

Apart from our work with the JCSH, we also:

School Health Grant for Youth

PHAC has developed a grant program for youth who have ideas to develop a youth-driven project to improve healthy living and wellness in their school community. Youth applicants must be aged 13-19 and enrolled in grades 9-12 to apply for this grant funding. The objective of this grant is to encourage healthy living and wellness through youth-driven and youth-inspired projects. The goal of the funded projects is to help youth gain knowledge, tools and resources to support their wellbeing. Healthy living and wellness projects developed by youth using grant funding must focus on one or a combination of the following three JSCH and PHAC priorities:

  • Substance use and related harms
  • Positive mental health and well-being
  • Healthy eating and nutrition

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