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Promot Educ. 2005;12(3-4):173-7.

International School Health Network: an informal network for advocacy and knowledge exchange.

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Joint Consortium for School Health, Canada.


In Canada, researchers, policy-makers and non-governmental organisations have re-conceptualized the school setting as being an ecological entity, linked to parallel ecologies of the homes and the community it serves. The school, public health and other systems that seek to deliver programs in that setting are open, loosely coupled and bureaucratic. This reconceived view of the school as a setting for health promotion leads to an emphasis on building organizational, system, professional and community capacity. One of the most effective ways of building such capacities when resources are scarce is to invest in a variety of formal and informal networks that can sustain themselves with little or no external resources. A number of recognised researchers from the health and education sectors have emphasized this systems-based approach and the need to build supportive, small-scale networks or learning communities. In recent health promotion research, networking at various levels, across sectors and within communities is viewed as a key strategy within new, more effective health promotion strategies. In education, the notion of networking for educational change has been described as "learning communities" for continuous school improvement. The authors suggest that this strategy of networking be used at the international level to address several global challenges: There is no single, convenient way to obtain basic information about the status and nature of national and state/provincial school health programs around the world. There is no global research agenda in school health promotion, despite the obvious value of sharing such research and knowledge. There is no global mechanism to facilitate the development of common or shared tools for surveillance of child/youth health and monitoring of school health policies and programs, despite the excellent work being done in individual countries and by the European Network of Health Promoting Schools. There is no international mechanism with a focus on school health that brings together the following stakeholders: educational organisations with public health organisations; researchers with government officials and practitioners; those who work in Spanish, English, French and other languages; issue-specific networks with health generalists. An invitation is given to government officials, researchers and national school health associations to join an informal International School Health Network (ISHN) (soon available at: Discussions about the formation of the ISHN have been held with a number of participants at several international meetings and have culminated in a fledgling network that will focus on electronic and web-based exchanges of information, developing a global school health research agenda, exchanging effective materials and tools, informing policy-makers about effective practices, policies and programs. This network would build on and not duplicate the work of existing networks and include participation from WHO, OECD, UNESCO, the IUHPE and the World Bank. The next large meeting of the ISHN will occur at the IUHPE 2007 Conference in Vancouver, Canada (www.iuhpe Before then the ISHN will organise several on-line projects and teleconferences. For more information, contact

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