Embedding health promotion in schools

The Centre for Adolescent Health has a strong history of research, policy and practice at the interface of health, wellbeing and learning. Over the past two years, the Centre for Adolescent Health, as a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Adolescent Health, has led a body of work for WHO and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) that recently culminated in the launch of the first ever Global Standards and Indicators for Health Promoting Schools and Systems and an accompanying Implementation Guidance.

Siting within the WHO and UNESCO initiative of “Making every school a Health Promoting School”, a United Nations collaboration that includes UNICEF, UNFPA, UNAIDS and UNRWA,the CAH was engaged to review current policies and evidence (in English, French and Spanish), and to develop new global standards, indicators, and an implementation guidance for Health Promoting Schools (HPS). This work has involved a series of discrete yet related projects that have been informed by several rounds of peer review by WHO, UNESCO and other UN organizations, and an international advisory panel.

The CAH developed eight standards which provide a vision and framework to guide governments and school leadership efforts to support implementation, and tools to identify areas that require policy development and increasing commitment, investment, resources and stakeholder engagement. The standards and benchmarking framework support the creation of ‘health promoting schools,’ which equally foster health and learning in all aspects of school life.

“Never before has there been such appreciation of the value of schools as sites for academic and social learning, but also as settings which can enhance student health and wellbeing.”

Professor Susan Sawyer

The standards cover both school and government policies and resources, school governance, leadership and community partnerships, a curriculum that supports health and wellbeing such as nutrition and safety, a social-emotional environment fostering equity and diversity and delivering school-linked health services.


System of global standards for health-promoting schools


The health and education sectors will need to collaborate closely to implement these standards. This is a major challenge for Health Promoting Schools as so few professionals can effectively straddle both sectors.

Projects undertaken by the CAH

  1. Policy Review (lead: Kristina Bennett): A review of current guidelines and policies for HPS and similar initiatives in low, middle, and high income countries
  2. Evidence Review (lead: Monika Raniti): A systematic review of the peer-reviewed literature on barriers and enabler to implementation of HPS and similar initiatives in low, middle and high income countries
  3. A series of 8 country Case Profiles on HPS implementation in low and middle income countries – Bhutan, Indonesia, Paraguay, Philippines, Senegal, South Africa, Tunisia, Ukraine (lead: Ruth Aston)
  4. Development of the new Global Standards and Indicators for HPS (lead: Monika Raniti)
  5. Development of an Implementation Guidance for HPS (lead: Ruth Aston)

Ongoing projects

  1. A related project, funded through a University of Melbourne India School Education Engagement grant (2020), is a case study of implementation of a school-based health program in Bihar, India (Leads: Susan Sawyer, Sachin Shinde, Monika Raniti)
  2. A related project, funded by the Wellcome Trust, on the role of school connectedness in depression and anxiety in young people (lead: Monika Raniti)

HPS team

The CAH is remarkably proud of this body of work and wishes to acknowledge everyone who contributed (some are pictured below). The team was comprised of researchers and practitioners who have a depth and breadth of expertise in the intersection between health and education (e.g., school health services, health promoting schools, school-based health interventions).

Senior Lead: Professor Susan Sawyer

Postdoctoral Researcher: Dr Monika Raniti

Public Health and Health Promotion specialist: Kristina Bennett

Education and Evaluation specialist: Dr Ruth Aston (Centre for Program Evaluation, Melbourne Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne)

Consultant: Cristina de Nicolás Izquierdo

Research assistants: Ella Cehun, Monika Fridgant, Anna Ross, and Catherine Waters

Past Volunteers and Interns: Manon Duay, Catherine Waters

Communications specialist: Molly O’Sullivan

Centre for Adolescent Health Internal Advisory Group: Ms Israt Jahan Baki, Dr Helen Butler, Ms Andrea Krelle, Dr Lisa Mundy, Professor George Patton, A/Prof Nicola Reavley, Dr Jenny Proimos, Dr Anitra Wierenga, Dr Sachin Shinde, and Dr Jon Quach


Making every school a health-promoting school reports

Making every school a health-promoting school – Global standards and indicators

Spanish: Hacer que todas las escuelas sean promotoras de la salud. Pautas e indicadores mundiales

Portuguese: Transformar cada escola em uma escola promotora de saúde: Padrões e indicadores globais

Making every school a health-promoting school – Implementation Guidance

Making every school a health-promoting school – Country case studies

WHO guideline on school health services

Key publications

Sawyer, S. M., Raniti, M., & Aston, R. (2021). Making every school a health-promoting school. The Lancet. Child & adolescent health, S2352-4642(21)00190-5. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2352-4642(21)00190-5

Raniti, M., Aston, R., Bennett, K., de Nicolás, C., Fridgant, M., Cehun, E., Sawyer, S.M. (2020). Global Standards and Indicators for Health Promoting Schools. Melbourne: Centre for Adolescent Health, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.

Aston, R., Raniti, M., Bennett, K., de Nicolás,  C., Fridgant, M., Cehun, E., Sawyer, S.M. (2020). Global Implementation Guidance for Health Promoting Schools. Melbourne: Centre for Adolescent Health, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.

Bennett, K., Raniti, M., de Nicolás, C., Cehun, E., Waters, C., Fridgant, M., Sawyer, S.M. (2020). A global review of policy, standards and guideline documentation for Health Promoting Schools. Melbourne: Centre for Adolescent Health, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute. (in press)

Raniti, M., Fridgant, M., Ross, A., de Nicolás, C., Bennett, K., Cehun, E., Reavley, N., Sawyer, S.M. (2020). A systematic review of the enablers and barriers of Health Promoting Schools. Melbourne: Centre for Adolescent Health, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute. (in press)



MJA Podcasts 2021 Episode 24: Health Promoting Schools, with Prof Susan Sawyer, Dr Monika Raniti and Dr Ruth Aston | Podcast

Further information

Visit the HPS website – https://www.rch.org.au/cah/research/Health_Promoting_Schools/


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