Is your workplace a Health Promoting School? 


By Dr Hugh Shannon
Senior Lecturer – Health and Physical Education, Queensland University of Technology
[email protected]

A Health Promoting School (HPS) is described by the World Health Organization (WHO, 2022) as “…one that constantly strengthens its capacity as a healthy setting for living, learning and working”. Students are potential beneficiaries, however a systematic and holistic HPS approach can also yield positive outcomes for teaching staff, professional staff, school leadership teams, parents and other community members.

The HPS concept embodies a “…whole-school approach to promoting health and educational attainment in school communities by capitalizing on the organizational potential of schools to foster the physical, social–emotional and psychological conditions for health as well as for positive educational outcomes” (WHO & UNESCO, 2021, p.1). HPS development benefits from investment of all stakeholders groups, with potential for HPE staff to play a key role in shaping and guiding reflection and discussion.


The HPS concept has been a strategic focus of the WHO since the mid-1990s and you may have seen HPS frameworks published comprising three foci or variations of the following:

1. Curriculum, teaching and learning;
2. Environment and ethos;
3. Partnerships and services.

These foci support the consideration of health oriented learning opportunities, promotion of health and wellbeing to enhance educational outcomes and school culture, and valuing the formation of partnerships with parents and other stakeholders within and beyond the school community.

In the Australian context, the ACHPER Active and Healthy Schools Committee led by Natalie McMaster continued the valuable work of the Australian Health Promoting Schools Association (AHPSA) which was incorporated into ACHPER during 2015. A key resource produced by this committee, which you are encouraged to download is the Health Promoting Schools Audit Tool

The audit tool was designed using a strengths-based approach and is intended as a resource for structured reflection and growth opportunities within schools. It comprises practice related questions and a list of skills which can be used to consider professional learning opportunities. The tool can also be used as a mechanism for advocacy, by supporting discussion of needs, ideas or opportunities with leadership teams in your school.

The name of this group has since changed to the ACHPER Health Promoting Schools Committee currently led by Dr John Williams and work to support the fostering of health promoting schools is ongoing. The committee includes nine members, four of whom are located in Queensland. Should you wish to contact them, you can access email addresses by clicking on their names listed on the ACHPER Health Promoting Schools Committee web page.

If you would like to discuss HPS opportunities within your school or propose topics for discussion during future ACHPER Health Promoting Schools Committee meetings, you are most welcome to contact me or other members of the committee.

World Health Organization & United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. (2021). Making every school a health-promoting school: global standards and indicators. Geneva: WHO & UNESCO. 
World Health Organization. (2022). Health promoting schools.

Further reading
ACHPER Australia. (2022). National Principles of Health Education & Health Promoting Schools Audit Tool.
International Union for Health Promotion and Education. (2009). Achieving Health Promoting Schools: Guidelines to Promote Health in Schools.