The facilitation of health promotion in primary schools via partnerships with health agencies: Is it more than just ticking a box?

Year: 2017

Author: Wright, Bradley, Winslade, Matthew, Clarke, Deborah

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The school context has been established as an ideal setting for health promotion initiatives due to its potential to impact the attitudes and behaviours of students, staff and the wider community. The Health Promoting Schools (HPS) approach, which is a framework to support schools' development and implementation of a whole-school approach for health promotion, identifies health education, policy and partnerships as critical features (Young, 2005). While the integration of education and policy within health promotion programs is a common practice, intersectorial partnerships between the school setting and relevant organisations/services are often underutilised, which is likely due to the challenges involved facilitating collaboration between the education and health sectors (St Leger, 2004). Although effective partnerships between schools and health agencies can contribute a number of crucial elements to assist schools' health promotion endeavours, such as time, funding, resources and expertise, incompetent partnerships can cause a distorted partnership agenda and subsequently lowered levels of partnership engagement (Scriven & Hodgins, 2012). This presentation provides an insight into the partnership between schools and a peak Australian non-government organisation (NGO) by detailing the results of a comparative case study conducted in two NSW primary school sites. This NGO was responsible for managing one of the most widely-adopted and sustained health promotion programs in Australian educational settings, and both school sites were purposively sampled for this study as they were members of the program. The HPS framework informed the selection of participants to ensure all key stakeholder groups within the school communities were consulted. These stakeholders, which included students (n=50), staff (n=13), and community members (n=42), were interviewed to provide a holistic representation of the entire school communities' interactions with the NGO, and how these interactions affected their enactment of the health promotion program. The results of this research can inform how partnerships between schools and health agencies can be enhanced to ensure a mutual benefit for both parties and achieve better health outcomes for school communities.