Schools can be spaces where the health of the community, including children and adolescents, is promoted and where students and their communities are enabled to make healthy choices easily.
A health-promoting school not only focuses on encouraging healthy behavior by ensuring healthy eating and physical activity, but more importantly, on creating conditions that are conducive to health These can include facilitating community participation, enabling a healthy physical and social environment, advocating for health policies in schools and working together with different partners within the local community.
“Given that schools can serve as vital drivers for development in their communities, it is imperative that we consider how collaboration with the education sector can help us achieve health for all,” said PAHO Director, Carissa F. Etienne.
“Building healthy schools” is the slogan for this year´s Wellness Week, celebrated from 14-21 September, which seeks to highlight the importance of ensuring access to health for all students..
“We owe it to the students in our Region to make sure they have the healthiest, brightest futures possible,” said Andres de Francisco, Director of PAHO´s Family, Health Promotion and Life Course Department. “By working with schools and communities, we are taking a step towards make this future a reality
Since its inception in 2011, Wellness Week has called for action to combat noncommunicable diseases and make the healthy choice the easy choice. Since 2018, the crux of the campaign changed from solely a disease focus to highlighting how health promotion is essential at the community level. The campaign not only focuses on prevention, but also on supporting the empowerment and engagement of individuals, building healthy communities and facilitating collaboration, all while promoting health.
This year, Wellness Week will be launched at the PAHO Headquarters in Washington DC, to highlight the work of the local, E.L. Haynes Public Charter School, which focuses on promoting health and wellbeing within its school community. The event will feature a panel discussion about how schools can work towards health for all. This will be broadcast to audiences throughout the Region here in both English and Spanish.
Countries and territories around the Americas will also be hosting their own national and local Wellness Week launches with joint community activities between the health and education sectors. The activities will be based on the #AHealthySchoolIs social media campaign, where students, educators, and parents have been sharing what a healthy school is to them. Pictures of some of the responses are available here.
Pictures of students expressing what a healthy school is to them: