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An Overview of the Health Promoting School Movement in Hong Kong

Substantial evidence indicates that health is a major factor affecting the learning capacity of a person. In 1986, the World Health Organization (WHO) first initiated the concept of Health Promoting Schools (HPS) in the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion. A Health Promoting School is a place where all members of the school community work together to provide students with integrated and positive experiences and structures which promote and protect their health. It embodies a holistic, whole-school approach to personal and community health promotion in which a broad health education curriculum is supported by the environment and ethos of the school. The concept of HPS as a new initiative in school-based management moves beyond individual behavioural change and considers organizational structure change such as improving the school’s physical and social environment, its health education activities, and teaching and learning methods.

With the support of the Quality Education Fund, the Centre for Health Education and Health Promotion (CHEHP) launched the Professional Diploma Course in Health Promotion and Health Education in 1998 to provide training to people involved in school health and prepare the soil for setting up HPS in Hong Kong. Up to 2007, more than 800 teachers, school administrators, social workers and nurses completed the courses. Launching the Hong Kong Healthy Schools Award Scheme in 2001 marked another significant milestone in the development of school health in Hong Kong. It is the first territory-wide Health Promoting School initiative in Hong Kong recognised by WHO Western Pacific Regional Office(WHO/WPRO) for meeting the WHO’s standards. The Scheme provided a structured framework for school development and a system of monitoring progress and recognition of achievement. Since its establishment, the Scheme has successfully laid the foundation of Health Promoting Schools in over a hundred local primary, secondary and special schools in Hong Kong. During the SARS outbreak in 2003, CHEHP was invited by the Hong Kong Education and Manpower Bureau (now Education Bureau) to conduct short courses on HPS for all schools in Hong Kong. Over 1,200 school principals and teachers from 700 local schools completed our course and gained a basic understanding of HPS concepts and implementation. It has also equipped schools in Hong Kong to face a major epidemic outbreak of infectious disease that year and became better prepared for other health crises and challenges that occurred in Hong Kong afterwards.

To further the development of Health Promoting Schools in Hong Kong, CHEHP initiated the HPS mentorship programme and extended the Scheme to pre-schools by launching the Healthy Schools (Pre-school) Award Scheme in 2005, and developed the HPS Self-evaluation System in 2007. Children and young people are facing many challenges and crises on their way to growing up to be healthy, responsible and productive citizens. Over the years, CHEHP has worked collaboratively with various community partners to develop various health-promoting projects applying the concept of HPS to address the needs of school-aged students and support schools in fostering a healthy school environment. These initiatives carried out in the early years included the “Colourful and Bright Fruits and Vegetables Project”, “Promoting and Strengthening Resilience in Schools”, “Smart Kids Fitness Project”, “Capacity Building for the Ethnic Minorities and the Chinese New Immigrants Towards Social Inclusion”, “HPS Built-on Project” and “New Frontiers Programme” etc.

Evaluation results demonstrated that positive changes in school development, pursuing excellence and students’ health risk behaviours were evident in the awardee schools after implementing the HPS framework through the Schemes. The fruitful results of the Schemes were well recognised and led Hong Kong to be the pioneer of school health promotion in the Asia Pacific Region. WHO/WPRO invited CHEHP to provide training and consultancy support for other countries in the region. This support included holding two training workshops on HPS for delegates from Asian and Pacific Islands countries in 2004 and 2007, supporting Laos in developing HPS and health improvement in 2004 and 2008 and participating in WHO Consultation Meeting in updating the Regional Guidelines for HPS in 2008. Furthermore, CHEHP was commissioned by the Education and Youth Affairs Bureau of the Macao SAR Government in 2008 and 2014 to conduct a territory-wide study to understand the school eating environment and assess the dietary pattern and nutritional status of the school children in Macao.

About the development of the past ten years, to map out strategies to cascade the effect of HPS leading to a territory-wide HPS movement that supports students adopting an active and healthy lifestyle, CHEHP was invited by the QEF to coordinate the “QEF Thematic Network on Healthy Schoolsfrom 2010 to 2016, benefiting 120 primary and secondary schools. Most of the participating schools in the network were visited by the evaluation team of CHEHP to provide recommendations on a whole range of aspects of the school's health development. The research team also conducted a questionnaire survey to study the health behaviours of students studying in P4 or S3 of each participating school. The survey report served as a reference blueprint for healthy school development and provided a rich source of information for designing health education curricula and activities.

The projects (year of implementation) initiated by the Centre in recent years include "Student Health Captain Award Scheme" (2013-2023), "ASAP Healthy Life Planning Project" (2019-2023), "GoSmart.Net Built-on Project" (2020-2023), "Healthy Airway Programme" (2022-2023), etc. These initiatives are based on the HPS concept, aligning with health education theories, and taking modern approaches that cater to the learning interests of children and young people, focusing on student participation and teacher support. The strategies we apply include teaching material development, student engagement and recognition, teacher training and home-school collaboration. We will continue to collaborate with international bodies to promote the global HPS movement and generate evidence on the effectiveness of HPS. And we are committed to promoting health and creating a healthy living environment for the next generation together with the effort of schools, families and members of society through providing consultancy and assessment services for all schools in Hong Kong.

Last updated on 15 July 2023

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