What is the Healthy Universities/Campuses Approach?

Another model being used extensively internationally, and particularly in the UK is the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Healthy Universities / Campuses model. A Healthy University aspires to create a learning environment and organizational culture that enhances the health, wellbeing and sustainability of its community, and enables people to achieve their full potential. Key to becoming a healthy university is an understanding of the whole system approach, which recognizes the interrelationships and interconnectedness of different elements of the university system, and emphasizes the importance of the interactions between people, their behaviours and their environment. This approach is very similar to the CACUSS Systemic Approach.

Universities work within national and institutional frameworks, using a number of, procedures, reviews and audits to engage in strategic planning and policy development and implementation. If commitment to health and wellbeing is to be secured, it will be important to engage with and influence these processes. In the University context, details are provided of the national framework within which universities work together with examples of institutional procedures that can be utilized to:

  • Raise the profile of health and wellbeing of students, staff and the community
  • Integrate health and wellbeing within the university policies and procedures
  • Support sustainable changes that will embed the university on local and global communities.

The UK Healthy Universities toolkit contains many valuable resources to support higher education setting in their efforts to plan and implement a healthy community’s model.

Healthy Campuses Model

Who uses this approach?

As a “whole campus” approach, it is intended that all departments play a role. However, to drive the approach, it is recommended that the work be led internally and externally by a health promotion team, where ever appropriate. The most logical place for such a team would be a campus’s health and counselling or student service offices. Buy in from the leadership within the health or counselling service would also be required to strategically position the work with the broader goals and objectives of the university or college.

Best practices of this model on Ontario or Canadian campuses?

The Healthy Campus Community (HCC) initiative at Simon Fraser University (SFU) was launched in early 2012 with the intention of taking a systemic, campus wide approach to enhance health and well-being. The initiative links health with learning and student satisfaction, and therefore integrates health into the core business of higher education. The initiative draws heavily on healthy settings literature, and emphasizes the need to work collaboratively and strategically in creating campus environments that support well-being. The initiative is evidence based, and a number of diverse areas for action were identified through a literature review, including a review of best practices in workplaces, elementary and secondary school settings that could be adapted and expanded to the higher education context. Read more on SFU’s Health Campus Community website or the following resources:

Benefits, Challenges and Considerations 

Benefits:

  • Establish broader institutional processes, policies and learning environments that support student well-being in a broad, holistic and positive way.
  • Increase potential for student retention, learning, academic achievement as well as worker productivity, retention and motivation.
  • Emphasize the importance of moving beyond a health education model of health promotion, to understanding how systemic changes within our campus setting can positively impact health and well-being.

Challenges:

  • This approach could require ideological and systemic shift from individual health education and treatment towards systemic approach to health promotion. This requires hours of advocacy, research, and planning to shift departmental culture, policies and processes.
  • During the planning and implementation stages, additional staff may be required.
  • Engagement of diverse faculty, administration and community members in the process.
  • Evaluation and ensuring the approach is based on evidence.

Learn more