School and youth health

The school health component of the Mega Country Health Promotion Network

The WHO Mega Country Health Promotion Network was born out of a recognition for both the need and potential to have a significant impact on world health by forming a partnership among the most populous countries.

Today, 11 countries have a population of 100 million or more. Together, these Mega countries constitute over 60% of the world's population: Bangladesh, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russian Federation, United States of America.

In the early stages of the development of the WHO Mega Country Health Promotion Network, participants agreed upon the importance of addressing school health as a specialized area. All representatives attending the initial feasibility discussions in 1996 were interested in improving school health programs on a large scale and agreed that school health experts should participate as a part of the network. A School Health Component of the Mega Country Network for Health Promotion was thus established, which became the first specialized area under the umbrella of the Mega Country Health Promotion Network. The School Health Component of the Mega Country Network brings together representatives from Ministries of Health and Education who are responsible for school health in each of the Mega Countries as well as representatives from U.N. agencies who work in the area of school health.

The primary purposes of the school health component are:

  • To help each participating nation analyze and improve national strategies for enabling schools to implement effective school health programs, including the involvement of relevant provincial and local agencies.
  • To provide an efficient mechanism to help articulate and implement the WHO Global School Health Initiative in the world's most populous nations.
  • To provide advice to WHO in further planning and implementing the Global School Health Initiative.

Recently, the participants have focused on the following efforts:

1. Improve the information base for health promotion through publications, a school health web-site, monitoring youth risk behaviors among students in some of the Mega Countries and cross country comparable surveillance of youth risk behaviors, and improving the communication and exchange of information between Mega Countries.

2. Mobilize resources for health promotion by actively involving ministries of education and teachers' organizations (unions), organizing national conferences for school health, conducting rapid assessments of national capacities to improve health through schools which can contribute to the development of national plans, and developing funding proposals for work in collaboration with WHO.

3. Develop intersectoral collaboration, particularly between the ministries of health and education, and working closely with teachers' organizations. An important challenge is to determine how to overcome problems of intersectorality and bureaucratic barriers within and between Mega Countries.

4. Address important health, population and setting challenges; specifically by developing effective school strategies to prevent tobacco use and addiction and integrating those efforts into a broad school health program; and in general by disseminating existing WHO documents and materials.

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