Schools can boost positive health among students
4 Mar 2019
Positive health can be boosted among school students. In many parts of the Nordic region schools are implementing health promotion measures that focus on encouraging wellness – in other words, concentrating on things that make students feel good. A new report shows how the wellbeing of school students is being enhanced in various school settings in the Nordic region. The importance of a user perspective also emerges.
The report Adolescent Health in the Nordic Region – Health promotion in school settings provides a picture of how the mental health of school students has developed over time and sheds light on the most significant factors for promoting wellbeing, describing the important role that schools play.
Building on wellness
Health promotion work starts from a salutogenic perspective; in other words, it is an approach that focuses on good health. It involves either enhancing or maintaining the students’ physical, mental and social wellbeing by creating learning environments that promote the students’ learning, development and health.
This can be done by supporting students in the transition between stages, having break-time activities that reinforce the sense of community in the school, combining theory with physical activity or teaching students to take responsibility for their own health.
Self-perceived mental ill-health among children and young people has increased. We know that students are expected to spend at least 12 years in school. At the same time, we know that many young people experience great performance anxiety, that bullying remains a big problem and that there is a risk that many students will end their education early because they are not well.
Early initiatives are crucial
Research shows that early initiatives are cheap and that late efforts are expensive. The earlier the school and the environment can stop personal suffering and provide support to children and young people, the better the chances of them having a healthier young life and, later, adult life. At a social development level we have been discussing lifelong learning for some decades – if individuals have bad experiences at primary and secondary school, many find it difficult to find the motivation to continue with further education.
The experiences of the activities that the Nordic Welfare Centre describes in “Adolescent Health in the Nordic Region – Health promotion in school settings” show that it is possible to improve the work environment for school students and that this need not be complicated. It is about achieving a consensus that it is important to boost students’ wellbeing.
Finland, for example, has a research-based anti-bullying programme called KiVa. The country is also unique in the world in having health studies as a compulsory subject. At a Danish upper secondary school, both students’ mental health and results improved when grades were abandoned for the first year. Read more about this and other inspiring examples in the report.
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