Link between education and well-being has never been clearer, UN pushes for ‘healthy’ schools |

There has been an increase in stress, anxiety and other mental health problems, while around 365 million primary school students are deprived of school meals, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations specialized agency responsible for education, UNESCO.

Based on a set of eight global benchmarks, the Global Standards for Healthy Schools, call on all classes to promote life skills, cognitive and socio-emotional skills and healthy lifestyles for learners.

“These recently launched global standards are designed to create schools that promote education and health, and which equip students with the knowledge and skills necessary for their future health and well-being, employability and life prospects.” , said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Linking schools and health

Clear evidence shows that comprehensive school health and nutrition programs have significant impacts on students.

“Schools play a vital role in the well-being of students, families and their communities, and the link between education and health has never been clearer,” added Tedros.

The new standards, which will be tested in Botswana, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya and Paraguay, contribute to WHO’s goal of improving the health of one billion people by 2023 and Global Education Agenda 2030 coordinated by UNESCO.

“Education and health are interdependent fundamental human rights for all, at the heart of all human rights and essential for social and economic development,” said UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azouley.

Make the case

School health and nutrition interventions in low-income areas where barriers such as parasitic worms or anemia are prevalent, can lead to an additional 2.5 years of schooling, according to UN agencies.

In addition, interventions to prevent malaria can lead to a 62% reduction in absenteeism; nutritious school meals increased enrollment rates by nine percent and attendance by eight percent on average; and free screening and glasses increased the likelihood of students passing standardized reading and math tests by five percent.

And promoting handwashing has reduced gastrointestinal and respiratory illnesses by 21% to 61% in low-income countries, resulting in fewer absentees.

“A school that does not promote health is no longer justifiable and acceptable,” Ms. Azouley said.

Promote health in schools

Comprehensive sexuality education encourages healthier behavior, promotes sexual and reproductive health and rights, and improves outcomes such as reduced HIV infection and teenage pregnancy, WHO and UNESCO said.

A school that does not promote health is no longer justifiable and acceptable – head of UNESCO

By improving school water and sanitation (WASH) services and supplies, as well as menstrual hygiene education, girls can maintain dignity and may even miss less school for their rules.

“I call on each of us to affirm our commitment and our role, to make each school a healthy school”, underlined the head of UNESCO.

Raise standards

The healthy schools approach was introduced by WHO, UNESCO and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in 1995 and adopted in more than 90 countries and territories.

However, only a small number of countries have implemented it on a large scale, and even fewer have effectively adapted their education systems to include health promotion.

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