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Intersectoral working during the COVID-19 pandemic in schools

Intersectoral working during the COVID-19 pandemic in schools

Preliminary results of the global survey on safe reopening of schools

The second survey on the safe reopening of schools was active from February to October 2021. The aim of this survey was to gather the experiences and opinions of education and health professionals about the processes in place in their countries and territories to reopen schools safely during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to keep them open. With the collaboration of our Consortium partners, the survey has been disseminated all around the world in seven languages (Arabic, English, French, German, Mandarin, Portuguese and Spanish), which resulted in contributions from 72 countries.

Many themes are covered by the survey: the implementation of infection control measures in schools, the impact of infection control measures (on students and staff), the guidance and training received, the enablers and barriers to reopening schools and intersectoral working in schools. As a first step, we are glad to share the preliminary results on intersectoral collaboration and training on the UNESCO Chair website.

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UN Transforming Education Summit September 2022

UN Transforming Education Summit September 2022

On the International Day of Education, the UN Secretary-General’s office announced the Transforming Education Summit and encouraged everyone to unite in making education a common good and a top political priority.

The COVID-19 pandemic led to an unprecedented educational crisis, interrupting the schooling of 1.6 billion students at the height of the crisis. Even today, the schooling of nearly 31 million students remains disrupted by school closures. As António Guterres, Unites Nations Secretary-General, points out, the proportion of children in developing countries who leave school unable to read could rise from 53% to 70% if we do not act.

Beyond the issues of access and inequality, education faces major challenges: technical innovation, dramatic changes in the world of work, the reality of the climate emergency and a general loss of trust between people and institutions. There is a need to place education at the heart of efforts to transform the economy and society towards sustainable development. This also means launching a reflection on how education systems can evolve to accompany and support this transformation of societies by 2030. 

This is the objective of the Education Transformation Summit to be held in New York in September 2022 during the 77th Assembly of the United Nations. Recognising that education is a foundation for peace, tolerance, human rights and sustainable development, this Summit aims to mobilise and converge actions, ambitions, solidarity and solutions to transform education by 2030. A pre-Summit conference will take place in Paris in June 2022. A focused, intensive and inclusive preparatory process has been launched by UNESCO, with the aim of taking into account the priorities of Member States and ensuring the meaningful engagement of young people and all education stakeholders.

The UNESCO Chair is a partner in this event and is involved in its preparation, particularly in the area of “inclusive, equitable, healthy and safe schools”.

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New publication: Questioning Education. Moving from What and How to Why and Who

New publication: Questioning Education. Moving from What and How to Why and Who

This new book “Questioning Education. Moving from What and How to Why and Who” by Sean Slade was published early March 2022.

How can we rethink the future of education as a system, process, and tradition to make lasting changes in the post-pandemic world? This book reminds us that education prepares students for their futures and yet has become stuck in the past. The author, Sean Slade, asks us to move from our focus on education as a content-delivery system and instead reflect on its overarching purpose(s). He shows how we can shift our systems and our curriculum discussions away from beginning with the What and How, and instead start with the Why and Who.

This book will inspire you to reconsider what school is and what power you have to make changes, so we can all play a role in improving ourselves, our systems, and our world.

The book contains three parts:

  • Part 1: The Educational Solar System 
  • Part 2: Diving Deeper into Each Question or Visiting Each Planet: From Why to Who to Where and When to How and What 
  • Part 3: A Flipped Solar System

More information

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Article – An analysis of alcohol industry-funded school-based youth education programmes

Article – An analysis of alcohol industry-funded school-based youth education programmes

While the tobacco and fossil fuel industries have used youth education programmes and schools for decades to disseminate product-friendly discourses, ideas and values favourable to their positions, there has been no systematic research specifically on youth education programmes funded by the alcohol industry.

The article published on 12 January 2022[1] provides a detailed review of three school-based youth education programmes on alcohol consumption and health harms.

The analysis shows that the educational materials are limited to a restrictive understanding of the problem and its causes, focusing on personal responsibility and moderate alcohol consumption. Peer pressure and “bad choices” are cited as causes of the problem, with little or no mention of alcohol industry marketing or other practices.

All programmes present alcohol as a product that young people should learn to consume ‘responsibly’ as adults, thus promoting familiarisation and normalisation of alcohol consumption. The discourses also rely on selective presentation of harms, including misinformation about the risk of cancer. The research was limited to an analysis of teaching materials and further research is needed to explore their impact on youth, teachers and wider social norms and discourses.

This study thus reveals considerable conflicts of interest in the implementation of alcohol education programmes in schools (intermediary) funded by the alcohol industry. These programmes are intended to educate young people about the harms and consequences of alcohol consumption, but they primarily encourage moderate and ‘responsible’ drinking, focusing on individual behaviour and choices. These programmes do not empower children and young people to understand and think critically about alcohol and to protect them from alcohol-related harms.

The authors warn that children and young people are being exposed to such conflicted and misleading materials. They call for urgent attention from policy makers, practitioners, teachers and parents, and to end the use of these industry-funded resources in schools.

Read the article


[1] van Schalkwyk MCI, Petticrew M, Maani N, Hawkins B, Bonell C, et al. (2022) Distilling the curriculum: An analysis of alcohol industry-funded school-based youth education programmes. PLOS ONE 17(1): e0259560. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0259560

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Concise Guides to the Sustainable Development Goals – SDG 3 Good Health and Wellbeing

Concise Guides to the Sustainable Development Goals – SDG 3 Good Health and Wellbeing

The Concise Guides to the UN Sustainable Development Goals series consists of 17 short books, each examining one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The series provides an integrated assessment of the SDGs from an economic, legal, social, environmental and cultural perspective.

The guide on health and well-being[i] addresses the various contemporary issues related to the implementation of SDG3 and provides a concrete analysis of the challenges. Written by global experts in the field, the book mobilises the concepts of health, well-being and sustainable development and puts them into perspective through essays and case studies in a variety of contexts. It provides a landscape of research, developments, innovative interventions and long-term visions for SDG3.

Chapter 7[ii]  is specifically dedicated to the Health Promoting Schools approach and the implementation of health promoting learning environments in different regions of the world. It recalls the importance of developing valid and effective frameworks for school-based interventions, anchored in an intersectoral perspective, and the role played in this respect by the UNESCO Chair Global Health & Education.


[i] [i]  Savelyeva, T., Lee, S. W., & Banack, H. (Éds.). (2019). SDG3 – Good Health and Wellbeing : Re-Calibrating the SDG Agenda: Concise Guides to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Emerald Publishing Limited. https://doi.org/10.1108/9781789737097

[ii] Lee, A.Young, I.St Leger, L.Jourdan, D. and Kolbe, L. (2019), “Implementing a Healthy Environment for Teaching and Learning Through Health–School Partnership”, Savelyeva, T.Lee, S.W. and Banack, H. (Ed.) SDG3 – Good Health and Wellbeing: Re-Calibrating the SDG Agenda: Concise Guides to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 125-149. https://doi.org/10.1108/978-1-78973-709-720191011

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Webinar Strategies for School Health Promotion during COVID-19 – 30 September 2021

Webinar Strategies for School Health Promotion during COVID-19 – 30 September 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted schools all over the world. Schools in many countries closed in haste and had to create virtual learning opportunities for their students. The reopening of schools is taking place in various speeds and with different guidance at national and/or local level.

The UNESCO Chair Global Health & Education gathered the experiences and opinions of education and health professionals about  reopening schools safely and/or to keeping them open. The survey explored the public health measures that have been put in place in schools; communication of guidance at national and/or local level, and the facilitators or barriers to safe reopening. Nicola Gray (Affiliated researcher, UNESCO Chair Global Health & Education; Senior Lecturer, University of Huddersfield, UK) will provide a preview of the results of this survey on the safe reopening of schools during COVID-19. 

The WHO-Europe Technical Advisory Group for schooling during COVID-19 recommends that ‘the principles of health-promoting schools (HPS) are even more important in a pandemic’. However, moving from recognition of HPS values to putting these into practice is challenging. Veronica Velasco (Assistant professor, Department of Psychology, University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy) wrote a new document on School Health Promotion during COVID-19 for the Schools for Health in Europe network (SHE). The relevance of the HPS approach during the COVID-19 pandemic will be discussed and implementation strategies based on the HPS approach will be presented.

During this webinar the experts will explore the following questions:

  1. What are the experiences of education and health professionals around the world concerning the safe reopening of schools?
  2. Why is the HPS approach relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic and how can HPS be implemented?
  3. What can we learn to better prepare schools for future epidemics and disasters?

This webinar is organised by the Schools for Health in Europe Network Foundation (SHE), the UNESCO Chair Global Health & Education, the University of Huddersfield and the University of Milano-Bicocca.

The webinar will take place on 30 September 2021 from 14.00 – 15.00 CEST.

Join the webinar. This webinar will also be broadcasted live on our YouTube channel.

More information

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Involve children and young people in assessing the impact of school closures on their wellbeing and developing strategies for post-COVID-19 schooling

Involve children and young people in assessing the impact of school closures on their wellbeing and developing strategies for post-COVID-19 schooling

Article published in MDPI on 5 September 2021

Nearly 200 countries have implemented school closures to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Although these closures have seemed necessary, there have been serious concerns about their effects on the well-being of children and adolescents. To truly understand the impact of these closures on children’s and adolescent’s well-being, and their suggestions for the future, it is important to adopt new approaches to collecting data that will ensure the right of children and adolescents to be heard on issues that affect them.

Current methods of assessing the impacts of school closure are dominated by the collection of information about children and adolescents, mainly using existing wellbeing indicators and related questionnaire surveys. While these sources of information are important, they provide only a limited understanding of how children and adolescents have experienced school closure, especially if they have been produced using measures developed solely by adults. There is a need for information produced by children and adolescents themselves, which may need to go beyond existing theoretical frameworks of wellbeing that predate COVID-19.

By gathering information from children and adolescents, the authors of this paper[1] show that we can more effectively guide the development and evaluation of public health policies and identify solutions to mitigate the negative impacts of school closures, or to recognise and respond to any positive effects.

Read the article

[1] Paakkari, L., Jourdan, D., Inchley, J., & Torppa, M. (2021). The Impact of School Closure on Adolescents’ Wellbeing, and Steps toward to a New Normal : The Need for an Assessment Tool Update? Adolescents1(3), 360‑362. https://doi.org/10.3390/adolescents1030027

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Cost-effectiveness and return on investment of school-based health promotion programmes for chronic disease prevention

Cost-effectiveness and return on investment of school-based health promotion programmes for chronic disease prevention

Although school-based health prevention programmes are effective in promoting healthy eating and physical activity, little is known about their economic impact. An economic evaluation of programmes identified as feasible, acceptable and sustainable in the Canadian context has been published in the European Journal of Public Health.

This study is based on a meta-analysis of the effectiveness of school-based health promotion programmes. A micro-simulation model integrated the effects of intervention on multiple risk factors to estimate the cost-effectiveness and ‘return on investment’ of comprehensive school health programmes, combining multiple approaches and those based on a modification of physical education programmes.

While each type of intervention studied was found to be economically beneficial, comprehensive school health promotion programmes were found to be the most cost-effective and had the highest return on investment.

Reference: John P Ekwaru, Arto Ohinmaa, Julia Dabravolskaj, Katerina Maximova, Paul J Veugelers, Cost-effectiveness and return on investment of school-based health promotion programmes for chronic disease prevention, European Journal of Public Health, 2021;, ckab130, https://doi.org/10.1093/eurpub/ckab130

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Schools for healthy lives, not for corporate interests

Schools for healthy lives, not for corporate interests

ublished by the Lancet Child and Adolescent Health in May 2021

This correspondence was recently published by The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health[1] in response to the Viewpoint: Supporting every school to become a foundation for healthy lives[2], by Prof. Didier Jourdan and colleagues.

The authors welcome the call by Didier Jourdan and colleagues for schools to become a foundation for healthy lives. The COVID-19 pandemic has focused the world’s attention on the institutions that influence health, including schools. The pandemic has exposed and deepened the long-standing and inequitable ways in which wider social conditions can undermine public health. Achieving a healthier and fairer future depends on social determinants that promote the health of all people. Schools and education are intricately linked to health, equity, and life opportunities. They echo the view of Didier Jourdan and colleagues that health professionals have an important role in supporting educational institutions to promote health and in advocating for structural change in the interests of children and adolescents.

Read the whole correspondence

Read the article by Didier Jourdan and colleagues


[1] van Schalkwyk, M.C.I., Knai, C., Jackson, N., Maani, N. & Petticrew, M. (2021). Schools for healthy lives, not for corporate interests. The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S2352-4642(21)00097-3

[2] Jourdan, D., Gray, N. J., Barry, M. M., Caffe, S., Cornu, C., Diagne, F., El Hage, F., Farmer, M. Y., Slade, S., Marmot, M., & Sawyer, S. M. (2021). Supporting every school to become a foundation for healthy lives. The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2352-4642(20)30316-3

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Participate in the second survey on the safe reopening of schools

Participate in the second survey on the safe reopening of schools

You are invited to complete the second survey on the safe reopening of schools and to share the survey within your network. The aim of the survey is to gather the experiences and opinions of education and health professionals about the processes in place in their countries and territories to reopen schools safely during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to keep them open.

We want to continue to form a bridge between the scientific data and the needs of people who are implementing national guidance and feeling the impact of the ongoing pandemic in schools and the surrounding communities. It will reflect on intersectoral working to date, and recommendations for moving forward.

The survey explores the public health measures that have been put in place in schools; communication of guidance at national and/or local level, and the facilitators or barriers to safe reopening. The survey should take 10-20 minutes to complete. It is a follow-up of the survey which was conducted in May/June 2020.

The survey is conducted by the UNESCO Chair and WHO Collaborating Center in Global Health & Education with the support of its consortium partners from ASCD, CHAIN, Education InternationalEUPHA Child and Adolescent Public Health, EUPHA Health PromotionGCU London, IAAH and their Young Professionals’ Network, IUHPE, NCD Child, UCA and the SHE Network.

More information and access to the survey link

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