Health Promoting Schools

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Part of the holistic healthy settings programme is the inclusion of other areas which impact on every day life. As such, schools within the SCHI catchment area are a key component of the project. Currently these include Mfera Community Day Secondary School, Mfera Primary School and Nkhudzi Primary School. These are all government funded schools. SCHI is working with all three schools to develop health promoting school (HPS) based on the WHO framework and integrated with the Government of Malawi School Health and Nutrition Strategy. A HPS, is ‘a school community that takes action and places priority on creating an environment that will have the best possible impact on the health of students, staff and the wider school community”. HPS is about building, shaping attitudes and behaviours among the school going children so that they would impact their community, siblings and children with positive health practices as they grow. There is sound evidence that Health Promoting Schools approach is effective in improving health and educational outcomes.

Health Promoting Schools

As far as we are aware, these are the first schools to partake in HPS concept in Malawi. The programme aims to improve school's potential as a public health institution by initiating change in six main areas as per HPS concept, namely:

  • School based healthy policy: It is recommended that policies, legislation and guidelines regarding school health must be developed to ensure the identification, mobilization and coordination of resources both at local, district and national level. These healthy school policies would assist the school community in consistently addressing its health needs but also encourage accepted practices that promote health and well-being.
  • School physical environment (Grounds and location, Water and sanitation, Productive school environment, Healthy eating): School physical environment has a strong influence on learner’s health. The Malawi SHN guidelines stipulate that school physical environments shall include safe buildings, safe drinking water, sanitary facilities, proper refuse recycling, hand washing facilities and food vendor health.
  • School social environment: Positive psycho-social school environment enhances learning. When students do not feel safe inside or on their way to school because they are subject to violence, abuse or neglect, the consequences for children, staff, the school and the wider community are many: vandalism against school and community property increase, abusive behavior toward school staff escalates, conflict among peer groups heightens and, in general, children are unable to learn, less likely to attend and more likely to eventually drop out of school.
  • Health Services: students should have access to necessary health services through school which are appropriate and are youth friendly. The Malawi SHN guidelines, state that school children should be provided with comprehensive school health services which are both school and community based to ensure that their diverse needs and those of their families are met. Community assessment, Physical assessment, Diagnosis and treatment of minor ailments (malaria, diarrhoea, mild anaemia, and skin conditions), Emergency care, Promotive and preventive health services, Disease surveillance and Referral and follow up are some of the services which should be provided.
  • Individual Health skills and Action Competences: This includes both formal and informal curriculum and associated activities, where students gain age-related knowledge, understandings, skills and experiences, which enable them to build competencies in taking action to improve the health and wellbeing of them and others in their community, and which enhances their learning outcomes (Government of Australia 2010).
  • Community Links: Community links are the connections between the school and the students’ families plus the connections between the school and key local groups and individuals. Appropriate consultation and participation with these stakeholders enhances the health promoting school and provides students and staff with a context and support for their actions.

Health Promoting Schools

A large proportion of the youth population in the SCHI catchment area are out of school, and therefore activities have been extended to include community based youth under the “Moyo Wanga, Chisanko Changa” (My Life, My Choice) programme. The first phase of this was initiated in Mfera Secondary School through the RE:ACTIVE programme funded by the University of Strathclyde as part of their Commonwealth Legacy programme. Following it’s success, the programme has extended to community youth and continues to focus on sport, mentorship and youth empowerment with further support from REACTIVE and FROM Scotland (James Sim Trust).