Coronavirus: what we know about the risk of reopening schools – and how best to limit it

Coronavirus: what we know about the risk of reopening schools – and how best to limit it

Across the world, over 1.5 billion children and young people were deprived of school during the first phase of the pandemic. We know this has had a negative effect on learning. And research carried out in England has shown that children in deprived areas have fallen furthest behind.

We know too that physical attendance at school has health benefits. Time spent with friends during adolescence helps brain development. Compulsory physical activity can protect against future chronic illnesses. And many young people benefit from school-based services such as free lunches and sanitary products.

Young people clearly benefit from being in school. But as many countries reopen, do the benefits of sending our children back outweigh the risks, and if so, what are the conditions of a safe return?

In the article published today in The Conversation, Didier Jourdan, Nicola Gray and Michael Marmot review the available data on the risks of returning to school and argue that the best means of mitigating them are locally driven control measures, based on national guidance.

Read the article.

Posted by Didier in News
High-level virtual meeting on schooling during the COVID-19 pandemic

High-level virtual meeting on schooling during the COVID-19 pandemic

The challenge of supporting effective schooling during the pandemic

On Monday 31 August, WHO/Europe organised an online high-level meeting with ministers of health from across the WHO European Region to exchange experiences, views and reflections on providing safe and effective schooling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Supporting effective schooling during the pandemic is essential for the health and well-being of children. Nevertheless, this is a real strategic challenge for education and health authorities, as countries seek to ensure a safe, friendly and educationally effective environment while controlling the transmission of the virus.

Initiated by a proposal of Dr. Roberto Speranza, Minister of Health of Italy, the meeting provided an opportunity for several Member States to present their experiences. Experts from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), WHO headquarters and WHO collaborating centres provided insights and facilitated the discussion.


The contribution of Prof. Jourdan and the UNESCO Chair

Prof. Jourdan took part to the expert’s round table and presented the WHO Collaborating Centre and UNESCO Chair Global Health & Education perspective on this issue. In the context of the COVID-19 crisis, the Chair has been very active both within the United Nations working group and in the production of articles, teaching tools and support for teachers at a national level.

A recent global survey done by the Chair in 42 countries showed states have a double role to make the crisis management at a school level possible:

  • Producing national guidelines
  • Supporting local capacity building

At this stage of the pandemic, Prof. Jourdan recalled should give priority to the operational methods of organisations – including effective testing, tracing and isolation procedures – and above all the educational quality issues. The main issue is to not longer focus on national instructions, but on collective action at local level to limit transmission. We need to ensure that all students – especially the most vulnerable – continue to learn.

It is not a question of simply implementing a protocol, but rather putting into practice, the practices best suited to the situation. To recognise the expertise of education professionals, to trust them and empower them to act. Securing the involvement of everyone locally – students, parents, local decision-makers, education and health professionals – is essential for success. We need to develop the necessary skills so that everyone is capable of adapting their behaviour. The participation of children and young people is a condition for success and requires a long-term effort.

A positive and responsible local approach to the return to school by families, school teams and health professionals is our best hope for the ongoing success of our children and young people.

These discussions will contribute to a summary paper being developed by WHO/Europe to provide a reference point and operational considerations for national education and health authorities planning and implementing effective schooling during the pandemic.


Posted by Didier in News
Sexuality education in the digital space and Health & Wellbeing for young people in times of COVID-19 – UNESCO publications

Sexuality education in the digital space and Health & Wellbeing for young people in times of COVID-19 – UNESCO publications

UNESCO recently published a range of products that have been developed relating to a series of work exploring sexuality education in the digital space. Also a report was published based on a consultation on the health and wellbeing challenges facing young people in the context of school closures and other lockdown measures in the time of COVID-19.

The products related to exploring sexuality education in the digital space:

  • Switched On Symposium Report:A report from a 3-day global symposium held in February (jointly by UNESCO, UNFPA, IPPF European Network and BZgA). The symposium explored the opportunities and challenges for capitalizing on digital spaces to strengthen efforts to deliver comprehensive sexuality education to adolescents and young people.
  • A series of posters showcasing examples of digital spaces delivering sexuality educationto adolescents and young people across the world. This series of posters featured as part of the exhibition at the symposium ‘Switched On. The posters are snapshots of digital sexuality education providers who are doing just that – taking sexuality education to the digital spaces where adolescents and young people can search for and hopefully find, the information they need.
  • Sexuality Education for Young People in Digital Spaces: A review of the evidence, commissioned by UNESCO and written by the Institute of Development Studies. This desk review examines the available evidence on the extent to which digital content can influence knowledge, attitudes and practices of adolescents and young people (aged 10–24 years), and looks at the potential for digital spaces to be used to add value to the delivery of comprehensive sexuality education (CSE).
  • Support. Connection: How are young people engaging with digital spaces to learn about bodies, sex and relationships?, commissioned by UNESCO and written by Restless Development. This research aimed to further shed light on young people’s (aged 10-24) engagement with digital spaces for obtaining information and education about bodies, sex and relationships. The report presents the results of a global survey completed by almost 4,000 young people from around the world, as well as a series of focus group discussions carried out in five countries. It provides insight into how young people are using digital spaces to find answers to their questions, and their experiences in doing so.

The report Health and Wellbeing Experiences for Young People in the Times of COVID-19 is based on a consultation in May 2020 with young digital content creators and users. It is the results of a partnership between the YTH (youth tech health) initiative and UNESCO. The researchers wanted to know what challenges youth were facing, what has changed in their lives since the COVID-19 pandemic began and what has stayed the same, and what youth-facing/serving organizations like the YTH initiative could do to support them.

Posted by Didier in News
Videos and resources webinar “The COVID-19 pandemic: better aligning education and health” now available!

Videos and resources webinar “The COVID-19 pandemic: better aligning education and health” now available!

Many of you participated in the webinar “The COVID-19 pandemic: better aligning education and health” on Monday 13 July 2020. We would like to thank the guest speakers and all the participants for their excellent contributions. The videos and all the resources are now available on the dedicated web page.

This webinar was an opportunity to discuss the challenges and conditions necessary to better align education and health in the perspective of the COVID-19 pandemic. The results of a global survey on the reopening of schools, as well as the EI Guidance on Reopening Schools and Educational Institutions were presented. The following three questions were answered:

  • What have we learned from the field about the successes and challenges of re-opening schools? by Nicola Gray, on behalf of UNESCO Chair Global Health & Education and International Association for Adolescent Health (IAAH)
  • How is Covid-19 affecting or changing education? by Sean Slade, Senior Director of Global Outreach ASCD
  • What is the perspective of the teacher’s profession on the pandemic? by Antonia Wulff, COVID 19 Policy Co-ordinator Education International (EI)

Looking forward to see you at the next Global Health & Education webinar! Learn more about the webinar series.


Posted by Didier in News
Webinar “Health Promotion Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic” on 22 June 2020

Webinar “Health Promotion Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic” on 22 June 2020

Join our interactive webinar “Health Promotion Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic” on Monday, 22 June 2020 from 18:00 to 19.00 (CEST). This webinar will be an opportunity to discuss with Prof. Stephan Van den Broucke the way health promotion can respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and to ask him your questions during our live webinar.

The purpose of this webinar is to highlight the contribution of health promotion to the COVID-19 pandemic by answering the following three questions:

  • What can health promotion contribute in terms of management of the pandemic?
  • Fake news, understanding complex issues, health knowledge: how to develop the capacity of each individual to take charge of their own health?
  • There will probably be several waves of COVID-19 outbreaks or other pandemics. What are the health promotion recommendations for a sustainable response to the pandemic and for the future?

More information.

Link to join the webinar. 

The webinar will be accessible 15 minutes prior to the start of the session. No registration is required to participate in the webinar. 500 places will be available.
This webinar will also be broadcast live on our YouTube channel.

Posted by Didier in News