Transformation and cultural change

Background & Theory

Historically, higher education institutions have served as settings for delivery of discrete projects and interventions on topical issues, such as drugs, alcohol, sexual health, student mental wellbeing and workplace health. However, there has been increasing interest in moving beyond a single issue focus that delivers ‘health promotion in the university setting’ to develop more strategic ‘whole university’ approaches. Whilst there is little research evidence on Healthy Universities per se, findings are promising and it is possible to draw on learning from other settings, which suggest that holistic, multi-component, whole-setting approaches are more likely to be successful than isolated and fragmented activities.

Healthy Universities represents one example of the healthy settings approach. This adopts a broad and holistic understanding of health and takes inspiration from the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion, which stated that:

“Health is created and lived by people within the settings of their everyday life; where they learn, work, play and love.” (WHO, Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion, 1986) 

The healthy settings approach takes a whole system perspective and aims to make the places within which people learn, live, work and play supportive to health and wellbeing.