Healthy Universities UK defines a healthy university or healthy college as being a place where a university or college is adopting a holistic, whole systems approach to health. This involves seeking to create a learning environment and shared institutional culture where health, well-being and the sustainability of communities are recognised as being core to success. Healthy institutions characteristically provide supportive and welcoming settings, increase the profile of health and sustainability and connect with, and contribute to, the health and well-being of the wider community.
So what’s happening in Wales?
In Wales we have a better opportunity than most to make a difference. A Healthy Universities and Colleges network group, rooted in the Regional Centre of Expertise Cymru, is being established to attract those in, or connected with, the many university and college communities from around Wales and beyond to work together to make a difference to the health and sustainability of the people of Wales and the wider world. This group provides an opportunity to build on successful previous healthy settings development in Wales. The Welsh Healthy Schools and pre-school schemes established some years ago put health at the centre of the agenda for children in Wales and a similar approach for universities and colleges can do the same for young people and all those connected with the learning environment.
The Healthy Schools scheme developed a series of standards around a broad range of health topics against which schools in Wales were measured. The scheme not only improved the facilities and provision for health in schools but by encouraging schools to take responsibility for maintaining and providing for the health of all who learned, worked, played and lived there, it not only taught children about how to live healthier lives but it also enabled pupils and staff to take some control over aspects of the school environment which influenced their health. Those schoolchildren are becoming young people now and many of them have gone to, or will be going on to study in further and higher education. Many of them in one or more of Wales’ 23 universities and colleges. The further and higher education sector is large in Wales – there are more than 275,000 students studying in Wales at any one time and more than 30,000 people are directly employed in further and higher education here. This provides a compelling reason for the healthy settings approach to be further developed in our universities and colleges.
The Healthy Universities and Colleges Framework for Wales
Following the healthy schools model, a group of people from across the university and college sectors as well as policy makers from Welsh Government and leading experts from Public Health Wales have come together and developed the Healthy Universities and Colleges Framework for Wales. The Framework provides best practice standards in six health topic areas;
- Physical activity
- Mental and emotional health and well-being
- Substance use and misuse
- Personal and sexual health and relationships
- Healthy and sustainable food
- Sustainable environment
There are six core principles which underpin these standards and are included within the framework;
- Equality and diversity
- Participation and empowerment
- Whole system approach
- Applies to staff, students and wider community
- Use of evidence, sharing and learning
One of the first tasks for the Healthy Universities and Colleges network group will be to see how this framework can be best implemented. Can you help or would you like to find out more? Perhaps you might have ideas on how the framework might be applied in your institution or perhaps you might just want to get involved in some way. If so drop me a line at email@example.com or better still come along to one of the autumn RCE Cymru events and start to make a difference.
About the Author
Chris is Assistant HR Director at Cardiff Metropolitan University and is a Chartered Member of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health. In addition to being part of the secretariat of the RCE Cymru, Chris is also on the steering group of Healthy Universities UK.