Representatives from 25 Australian universities have joined together to form the Australian Health Promoting Universities Network, which will see them work collaboratively to create healthier university campuses and communities.
The Network is one of the outcomes from the inaugural Australian Health Promoting Universities meeting held recently, a joint initiative of Western Sydney University and the University of Sydney.
Following the success of similar networks in the United Kingdom, United States and Canada, the Australian Health Promoting Universities Network will see universities share best practice across the sector, and work to improve the health and wellbeing of more than one million students and over 100,000 university staff members nationwide.
Initiatives championed by the Network include increasing the availability of healthy food options in campus outlets, creating sustainable, student-led initiatives that encourage better mental health, and promoting safe and respective relationships.
Vice-Chancellor of Western Sydney University and Chair of Universities Australia, Professor Barney Glover, welcomed the formation of the Network.
"Universities must be at the forefront of addressing major health challenges, such as improving mental health and preventing chronic disease. As the national peak body representing the Australian university sector, Universities Australia also supports this important initiative," says Professor Glover.
"Health promoting universities are those that embed health in our teaching, learning and research, and create supportive environments in which our students and staff can flourish and succeed. University graduates who are resilient, and value their health and the health of others, contribute significantly to our society and are role models for their communities."
“The Australian Health Promoting Universities Network is an important step towards achieving a nationally adopted ‘whole-of-campus’ approach to health promotion," says Dr Michael Spence, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Sydney.
"Current efforts to enhance student and staff health on Australian campuses are well intentioned yet sporadic. This Network is about moving beyond service provision and risk reduction and creating a higher education system that prioritises the health and wellbeing of its community as part of core business.
"Public health research has consistently shown that targeting individuals to lead healthier lifestyles is not as effective as when a whole environment or setting is there to support them.
Educational institutions like universities are uniquely placed to become champions for physical and mental health for the benefit of the entire community.
Further meetings are planned for the year, with the Network keen to secure support from other Australian universities.
The Network and its universities will also seek to sign the Okanagan Charter. Launched in October 2015 by the University of British Columbia in Canada, the Charter calls for universities to embed health into all aspects of campus culture and operations, and to encourage health promotion activities in the wider community.
About the Australian Health Promoting Universities Network
The Network is a shared vision of the following Australian universities: