Education News: UNESCO and WHO launch Global Standards for health-promoting schools

3 min read

Edition: June 24th, 2021
Curated by the Knowledge Team of ICS Career GPS

Global Standards for Health-promoting Schools call for all classrooms to promote life skills, cognitive and socio-emotional skills and healthy lifestyles for learners. (Image Credit: Freepik)
  • Excerpts from article published in UN News

There has been increased stress, anxiety and other mental health issues, while an estimated 365 million primary school students have gone without school meals, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN specialised agency handling education issues, UNESCO.  

Based on a set of eight global benchmarks, Global Standards for Health-promoting Schools, call for all classrooms to promote life skills, cognitive and socio-emotional skills and healthy lifestyles for learners. 

“These newly launched global standards are designed to create schools that nurture education and health, and that equip students with the knowledge and skills for their future health and well-being, employability and life prospects.”

WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.  

Linking Schools and Health 

Clear evidence shows that comprehensive health and nutrition programmes in schools have significant impact among students.  

“Schools play a vital role in the well-being of students, families and their communities, and the link between education and health has never been more evident”, Tedros added. 

The new standards, contribute to WHO’s target of making one billion people healthier by 2023 and the Global Education 2030 Agenda coordinated by UNESCO.

“Education and health are interdependent basic human rights for all, at the core of any human right, and essential to social and economic development.”

UNESCO Director General, Audrey Azouley.   

In Numbers 

  • School health and nutrition interventions in low-income areas where impediments such as parasitic worms or anemia are prevalent, can lead to 2.5 years of additional schooling, according to the UN agencies. 
  • Malaria prevention interventions can result in a 62 per cent reduction in absenteeism.
  • Nutritious school meals upped enrolment rates by 9% and attendance by 8% on average.
  • Free screening and eyeglasses have raised the probability of students passing standardised reading and math tests by 5%.
  • Promoting hand-washing has cut gastrointestinal and respiratory illnesses between 21 and 61 per cent in low income countries, resulting in fewer absentees.

Promoting Health in Schools 

Comprehensive sex education encourages healthier behaviour, promotes sexual and reproductive health and rights, and improves outcomes such as a reduction in HIV infection and adolescent pregnancies, WHO and UNESCO said. 

“A school that is not health-promoting is no longer justifiable & acceptable.”

UNESCO chief

By enhancing water and sanitation (WASH) services and supplies in schools, as well as providing education on menstrual hygiene, schools can help girls can maintain themselves with dignity and reduce the absenteeism among them. 

Long Road Ahead

The Health Promoting Schools approach was introduced by WHO, UNESCO and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in 1995 and adopted in over 90 countries and territories.   

However, only a small number of countries have implemented it at scale, and even fewer have effectively adapted their education systems to include health promotion. 

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the article mentioned above are those of the author(s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of ICS Career GPS or its staff.)

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