Six Canadian universities partner on game-changing health promotion movement

Canadian universities are initiating an international effort in creating campuses, which will emphasize on health improvement and the well-being of students, faculty and staff.

The first universities to formally adopt the Okanagan Charter – An International Charter for Health Promoting Universities and Colleges –  are the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, Memorial University, Mount Royal University, the University of Calgary and the University of Lethbridge.

“We are committing an additional $1 million to support well-being initiatives because people who study, work and live in environments that make healthy living a priority are happier, more successful and better equipped to handle challenges,” said UBC President Prof. Santa Ono. “I am proud of UBC and our partner universities for taking steps to strengthen our communities, both on and off campus.”

UBC and SFU were the two universities leading the development of the charter along with international partners from post-secondary institutions, the Pan American Health Organization and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

In order to inspire other universities, six Canadian universities adopted the charter and highlighted the fact that universities and colleges can set an example for other communities to promote health.

“The Okanagan Charter places well-being at the forefront of a wide range of programs and initiatives to support our university community,” said SFU President Andrew Petter. “SFU is proud to be a leader in the development of the Okanagan Charter, realizing our vision of being Canada’s most engaged university.”

Research shows that well-being is important to retention, productivity, learning, satisfaction and establishing a sense of community.

Universities and colleges are unique in their position in that they can promote well-being through research, education, practices and policies which can be developed on campuses.

The Okanagan Charter provides common framework for colleges and universities to lead this significant mission.

Each institution has made commitment to enact the Okanagan Charter on their campuses in different ways from campus spaces supporting connection and community to campus-wide mental health strategies.

UBC will invest an additional $1 million to promote well-being on its Vancouver and Okanagan campus as part of its commitment to the charter.

The funding will go towards efforts already underway such as increasing mental health literacy through routine mental first aid courses for staff members and faculty.

It will also go to initiatives to support well-being in classrooms and workspaces as well as supporting active lifestyles with a stationary bike study space at UBC’s okanagan campus library and movement breaks during lectures.

SFU’s Healthy Campus Community initiative will also be advanced with the help of the charter. SFU has been a leader in designing more supportive campus communities by building new spaces and re-designing courses focusing on well-being. SFU is also offering a new resilience program helping students take ownership over their emotional and social well-being.

The week of oct. 31 Presidents from the six universities will undertake the Okanagon Charter.

UBC will sign the charter during Thrive, a week-long series of events focusing on promoting mental health. Thrive originated at UBC in 2009, and is celebrated at various campuses across Canada.