University of Saskatchewan embraces health charter

Committing to healthy minds, bodies and lives is the principle behind the Okanagan Charter, a global health initiative now adopted by the University of Saskatchewan.

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The charter calls on post-secondary institutions world-wide to make a commitment to embed health in all aspects of campus culture and take the lead in actions that promote well-being both locally and globally.

“Issues of health and well-being—be they physical, mental or emotional—affect everyone,” said Chad London, dean of the College of Kinesiology and campus representative for the charter. “The U of S has a unique opportunity to lead by example and generate, share and implement knowledge and research findings to enhance health of citizens and communities, both now and in the future.”

With the adoption of the charter, the U of S has pledged to a number of commitments including: creating an environment that promotes and supports the health and well-being for all who study or work at U of S campuses; commit to work collaboratively across our staff and student portfolios; commit to include Indigenous world views in our approach to health and well-being; and commit to collaborate and/or share our best practice wellness strategies, initiatives and learnings across Canadian and international campuses.

“When we sent a draft of our Okanagan Charter commitments to President Stoicheff to approve, he scratched out the words 'strive to' in the opening statement referring to our commitment to creating an environment that supports the health and well-being of faculty, staff and students,” said Raelin Bliss, senior wellness specialist with Wellness Resources. “It reinforced to me the support our leaders and the university have for wellness at the U of S.”

The Okanagan Charter was an outcome of the 2015 International Conference on Health Promoting Universities and Colleges, held at the University of British Columbia Okanagan campus in Kelowna. A charter working group with members from the U.K., Chile, Ecuador, Germany, United States and Canada used an intensive development process to engage experts, practitioners, administrators and students from 45 countries.

Higher education leaders and delegates, including network and organization representatives, pledged to bring the charter back to their settings to inspire and catalyze further action towards the creation of health promoting universities and colleges. Representatives from the World Health Organization, Pan American Health Organization and UNESCO also joined in the pledge.