Health Promoting schools


What is a health promoting school?

In the SHE network a ‘health promoting school’ is defined as ‘a school that implements a structured and systematic plan for the health and well-being of all pupils and of teaching and non-teaching staff. This is characterized as a whole school approach (or ‘whole of school approach’). In the different European countries other terms are used such as ‘healthy schools’, ‘good and healthy schools’, but they all have a similar intention. School health promotion is another term that is used to describe health promoting schools.


What is the whole school approach to school health promotion?

The whole-school approach to school health promotion can be divided into the following six components:


  • Healthy school policies  are clearly defined documents or in accepted practice that are designed to promote health and well-being. These policies may regulate which foods can be served at the school or describe how to prevent or address school bullying. The policies are part of the school plan.
  • School physical environment  includes the buildings, grounds and school surroundings. For example, creating a healthy physical environment may include making the school grounds more appealing for recreation and physical activity.
  • School social environment relates to the quality of the relationships among and between school community members, e.g., between students and students and school staff. The social environment is influenced by the relationships with parents and the broader community.
  • Individual health skills and action competencies can be promoted through the curriculum such as through school health education and through activities that develop knowledge and skills which enables students to build competencies and take action related to health, well-being and educational attainment.
  • Community links are links between the school and the students’ families and the school and key groups/individuals in the surrounding community. Consulting and collaborating with community stakeholders will support health promoting school efforts and support the school community in their health promoting actions.
  • Health services  are the local and regional school health services or school-linked services that are responsible for the students’ health care and health promotion by providing direct student services. This includes students with special needs. Health service workers can work with teachers on specific issues, e.g., hygiene and sexual education.


Spotlight - health promoting school publications

Factsheet 2 - School health promotion: evidence for effective action

The second factsheet of the SHE network provides an updated overview of the evidence of health promotion in schools. It is based on a report entitled, ‘School health promotion: an overview of the evidence for effective action’. Read more about Factsheet 2

Sustainable school health promotion and education

Book published in 2014, focuses on the theory, research and practice of school health promotion and health education. It aims to explore the dynamic links between health and education, school based health promotion and learning outcomes. Read more about the book - Schools for Health and Sustainability, Learning and Achievement

SHE online school manual: 5 steps to a health promoting school

The SHE online school manual is a step-by-step guide on how to become a health promoting school, presented in five, consecutive phases. The SHE online school manual is intended for school management, teaching and non-teaching staff and students in the primary and secondary school setting. It is avaiable in multiple languages. Read more about the SHE online school manual


Related links


Health promoting school news

Learning from health promoting schools in Flanders and Scotland

In April and June of 2015, two SHE national coordinators were invited by the Dutch Education Agenda Sports, Physical Activity and a Healthy Lifestyle  to share their knowledge of and experience on health promotion in schools from their country's context. Read more about health promoting shools in Flanders and Scotland

Applying the whole school approach in different contexts

In the beginning of 2015, Goof Buijs, SHE network coordinator, travelled to several European countries to share the whole school approach to school health promotion and explain its broad applicability for address communicable and non-communicable diseases. Read more about these events on the whole school approach

School Health education research

Feasibility and effectiveness of a transfer-oriented approach to health education in secondary schools. Read more about this research

Health Promoting Schools & academic achievement

The Utrecht Healthy School project: connecting adolescent behaviour, academic achievement and Health Promoting Schools. The study evaluates the health promoting school approach as applied by schools in the Dutch province of Utrecht. If you want a PDF of the publication, please send an email to the SHE secretariat