Dooris, Mark T and Doherty, Sharon Helen
Healthy Universities: current activity and future directions - findings and reflections from a national-level qualitative research study.
Global Health Promotion, 17
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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1757975910375165
This qualitative study used questionnaires to scope and explore ‘healthy universities’ activity taking place within English higher education institutions (HEIs). The findings revealed a wealth of health-related activity and confirmed growing interest in the healthy universities approach — reflecting an increasing recognition that investment for health within the sector will contribute not only to health targets but also to mainstream agendas such as staff and student recruitment, experience and retention; and institutional and societal productivity and sustainability. However, they also suggested that, while there is growing understanding of the need for a comprehensive whole system approach to improving health within higher education settings, there are a number of very real challenges — including a lack of rigorous evaluation, the difficulty of integrating health into a ‘non-health’ sector and the complexity of securing sustainable cultural change. Noting that health and well-being remain largely marginal to the core mission and organization of higher education, the article goes on to reflect on the wider implications for future research and policy at national and international levels. Within England, whereas there are Healthy Schools and Healthy Further Education Programmes, there is as yet no government-endorsed programme for universities. Similarly, at an international level, there has been no systematic investment in higher education mirroring the comprehensive and multifaceted Health Promoting Schools Programme. Key issues highlighted are: securing funding for evaluative research within and across HEIs to enable the development of a more robust evidence base for the approach; advocating for an English National Healthy Higher Education Programme that can help to build consistency across the entire spectrum of education; and exploring with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Union for Health Promotion and Education (IUHPE) the feasibility of developing an international programme
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