By HEATHER MITCHELL
What is “Comprehensive School Health”?
Comprehensive School Health (CSH) is an internationally recognized framework for schools to follow in order to support improvements in students’ educational outcomes while addressing school health in a planned, integrated and holistic way.
The CSH framework helps educators, health practitioners, school staff, and students work together to create an environment that makes their school the best place possible to learn, work and play.
This framework is the foundation of the Manitoba’s Healthy Schools approach, addressing four pillars explained below:
Social and Physical Environment: The social environment is the quality of the relationships among and between school staff and students, and the emotional well-being of students. For example, healthy schools have warm and caring relationships among students and staff, and do not tolerate bullying. The physical environment includes the buildings, grounds, play space, and equipment in and surrounding the school. For example, school facilities and activities are safe and accessible for everyone.
Teaching and Learning: Both formal instruction, and informal learning, such as having school staff model healthy behaviours for students.
Partnerships and Services: These link the school to the broader community, enhancing the range of supports and opportunities available to students, parents, educators and others
Healthy School Policy: Management practices, decision-making processes, rules, procedures and policies at all levels that promote health and wellbeing and shape a respectful, welcoming and caring school environment. They can include everything from guidelines for physical activity and food sales, to rules regarding conduct, to frameworks for engaging community partners.
Health and education are interdependent: healthy students are better learners, and better-educated individuals are healthier. Research has shown that CSH improves both health  and educational outcomes , as well as encourage healthy behaviours that last a lifetime. In the broader school environment, it helps students develop the skills they need to be physically and emotionally healthy for life.
Comprehensive School Health:
• Recognizes that healthy young people learn better and achieve more
• Understands that schools can directly influence students’ health and behaviours
• Encourages healthy lifestyle choices, and promotes students’ health and wellbeing
• Incorporates health into all aspects of school and learning
Connecting Active School Travel & CSH
Schools that follow the CSH model can easily improve health and educational outcomes by including initiatives related to active school travel. The following suggestions are ways schools can be adapting their programs and policies to include student transportation:
1) Social and Physical Environment
- Walking/ cycling to school encourages a social connection between students, school staff families, and community members
- Schools that prioritize infrastructure for sustainable transportation – bike parking (racks/cages), bike lanes, protected crosswalks, accessible entrances, complete sidewalks/paths, etc. – encourage students to walk and bike to school. This increases opportunity for students to be physically active, while also addressing safety and accessibility
- Develop School Travel Plans that address barriers to active transportation and improve rates of students walking/cycling to school
- Organize a Walking School Bus or Bike Train
2) Teaching and Learning
- Active school travel has many connections to the Manitoba Curriculum (see our Active and Safe Routes to School Guidebook for curriculum connections), and can help teachers meet educational outcomes (see School Resources for Teachers for activities)
- Participate in annual events – Walktober, Bike to School Month, and Clean Air Day – that support an active and healthy school culture
- Collect data on how your students are getting to school. Our app, BikeWalkRoll, makes it easy to calculate this with simple 30-second classroom surveys. You can then compare your school’s score with schools across Manitoba. As a bonus, these surveys also help us monitor how transportation trends are changing over time.
3) Healthy School Policy
- Create and adopt policies (see Write an Active School Travel Policy) that prioritize active school travel, which include updating transportation policy pages on school websites to include information on walking and cycling; anti-idling policies; signing Active School Travel Charters, etc.
- Create a school policy around traffic management. This could consist of “No Stopping” zones during drop-off and pick-up, along with designated areas for drop-off and pickup.
- Restructure school transportation budgets to include active transportation
- Make the case as to why active transportation should be a priority at your school/division with this comprehensive report Saving Time and Money with Active School Travel.
4) Partnerships and Services
- Our Active and Safe Routes to School program is here to partner with schools to provide resources, support, and services to school to help them improve rates of active school travel by making it easy, fun, safe, and accessible. Visit our program page for more information, or contact us by email at ASRTS[at]greenactioncentre.ca.
Manitoba Healthy Schools: www.gov.mb.ca/healthyschools/index.html
 Stewart-Brown, S. (2006). What is the evidence on school health promotion in improving health or preventing disease and, specifically, what is the effectiveness of the health promoting schools approach? Copenhagen, WHO Regional Office for Europe (Health Evidence Network report; http://www.euro.who.int/document/e88185.pdf, accessed 16 Sep. 2008).
 Murray, N.D., Low, B.J., Hollis, C., Cross, A. Davis, S. (2007). Coordinated school health programs and academic achievement: a systematic review of the literature. Journal of School Health, 77 (9), 589-599
Editor’s note: this article originally appeared on the Green Action Centre’s blog at: http://greenactioncentre.ca/healthy-travel/comprehensive-school-health-active-school-travel/
Heather Mitchell has had a passion for nature and all things wild her entire life. Since studying biology and environmental science in university, she has had the opportunity to work and volunteer with many environmental non-profits, including placements in South Africa and Costa Rica. Heather also has a passion for education, community development, and working with children. With nature deficit disorder on the rise, she hopes to work alongside our youngest generations to create a greener and more equitable future. Heather will share her time between the Active and Safe Routes to School Program and Workplace Commuter Options Program.
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