Building bridges between health and education

Building bridges between health and education

Adolescent Health Coming Of Age conference

18th and 19th of September 2019, Ascot, UK

The “Adolescent Health – Coming of Age” conference, organized by the RCPCH (Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health) and SAHM (Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine), was a key opportunity to share knowledge and experiences among actors involved in adolescent health. The conference brought together professionals, researchers and academics to present findings, new ideas and innovations concerning care and prevention.

Didier Jourdan (Chairholder UNESCO Chair Global Health & Education) and Nicola Gray (Vice President of the International Association for Adolescent Health (IAAH) for Europe), led a workshop entitled: “Implementing school health interventions in the real world: the role of health professionals”. The purpose of the workshop was to explore the levers and barriers to implement school-based interventions that promote mental and physical health. What evidence is available on interventions and scale-up methods? What role do health professionals play in the implementation of these interventions?

The seminar demonstrated that the challenge is to enable each school to promote the health of young people by addressing the determinants of health and inequality in two ways:

  1. Act on the living conditions that influence health: the physical and social environment, and access to appropriate services (health, social services, education);
  2. Educate students to give everyone the means (knowledge, attitudes, behaviors and skills) to take care of their own health in an autonomous and responsible way.

To be truly integrated into the school environment, the school health promotion approach must be linked to two major educational trends:

  • Making schools more inclusive and fair in order to ensure the academic success of all children and adolescents;
  • Contributing to the emergence of a renewed citizenship with reference to education for sustainable development.

Curriculum changes that are implemented too quickly and without appropriate attention to their integration into the diversity of professional contexts, are doomed to fail if strategies are not based on a theory of change in professional practices. Indeed, the curricular requirements are not the only critical factor: the school’s staff, principals, teachers and health professionals’ motivation and capacity to act must also be taken into account.

We are not starting from scratch, and the school’s culture and contexts are different from one another. The key issue is more about improving the quality and results of the service provided to pupils, rather than establishing a specific program to be followed step by step. It is essential to improve the quality of the educational service offered to all students, especially the most vulnerable, and to do so in each school.

To achieve this, building bridges between education and health is a decisive factor.