Healthy universities: an example of a whole-system health-promoting setting

Article English OPEN
Newton, J ; Dooris, M ; Wills, JD (2016)

The health-promoting settings approach is well established in health promotion, with organisational settings being understood as complex systems able to support human wellbeing and flourishing. Despite the reach and evident importance of higher education as a sector, ‘healthy universities’ has not received high-level international leadership comparable to many other settings programmes. This study explores how the concept of a healthy university is operationalised in two case study universities. Data collection methods included documentary analysis, observation field notes and semi-structured interviews with staff and students. Staff and students understood the characteristics of a healthy university to pertain to management processes relating to communication and to a respectful organisational ethos. Enhancers of health and wellbeing were feeling valued, being listened to, having skilled and supportive line managers and having a positive physical environment.\ud Inhibitors of health and wellbeing were having a sense of powerlessness and a lack of care and concern. The concept of the healthy university has been slow to be adopted in contrast to initiatives such as healthy schools. In addition to challenges relating to lack of theorisation, paucity of evidence and difficulties in capturing the added value of whole-system working, this study suggests that this may be due to both their complex organisational structure and the diverse goals of higher education, which do not automatically privilege health and wellbeing. It also points to the need for a wholeuniversity approach that pays attention to the complex interactions and interconnections between component parts and highlights how the organisation can function effectively as a social system.
  • References (27)
    27 references, page 1 of 3

    1. World Health Organization (WHO). Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion. Geneva: World Health Organization; 1986.

    2. World Health Organization (WHO). Jakarta Declaration on Health Promotion into the 21st Century. Geneva: World Health Organization; 1997.

    3. Whitelaw S, Baxendale A, Bryce C, Machardy L, Young I, Witney E. Settings based health promotion: A review. Health Promot. Int. 2001; 16(4): 339-353.

    4. Dooris M, Wills J, Newton J. Theorising healthy settings: A critical discussion with reference to healthy universities. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health. 2014; 42(Suppl 15): 7-16.

    5. Dooris M. Healthy settings: Challenges to generating evidence of effectiveness. Health Promot. Int. 2005; 21(1): 55-65.

    6. Dooris M, Doherty S. Healthy universities - time for action: A qualitative research study exploring the potential of a national programme. Health Promot. Int. 2010; 25(1): 94-106.

    7. Dooris M, Doherty S. Healthy universities: Current activity and future directions - findings and reflections from a national-level qualitative research study. Global Health Promotion. 2010; 17(3): 6-16.

    8. Brennan J, King R, Lebeau Y. The Role of Universities in the Transformation of Societies. Synthesis Report. London: Association of Commonwealth Universities/ Open University; 2004.

    9. Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA). Higher Education Statistics for the UK 2012/13. London: HESA; 2014.

    10. Orme J, Dooris M. Integrating health and sustainability: The higher education sector as a timely catalyst. Health Education Research. 2010; 25(3): 425-437.

  • Metrics
    No metrics available
Share - Bookmark