Health Promoting Schools health promotion

Health Promoting Schools (HPS) is an initiative to heal a whole school community by working together to address the health and wellbeing of students, staff and their community.

Happy children in classroomSchools do this by including health and wellbeing in their planning and review processes, teaching strategies, curriculum and assessment activities.

HPS was developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) in the late 1980s. They define a health promoting school as one ‘that constantly strengthens its capacity as a healthy setting for living, learning and working’.

New Zealand’s HPS journey began in 1991. From the outset, HPS has been based on the principles of the 1986 Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion. It addresses all aspects of hauora – physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual wellbeing.

Many schools have joined HPS over the years. In 2009, around 67 percent of New Zealand schools were part of the programme. They are supported by advisors from public health units, district health boards or local government, who are contracted by the Ministry of Health to support HPS.

Despite its long history in New Zealand, HPS has been limited by a lack of infrastructure and robust evaluation. Research has shown a need for:


  • long-term strategic direction
  • evidence-based planning and delivery
  • evaluation and policy commitment.

In 2010, the Ministry of Health commissioned the Cognition Education Trust to develop a national strategic framework. This framework aims to support national consistency and evidence-based best practice. In doing so, it will make HPS more effective at improving student health and educational outcomes.

The National Strategic Framework
Being healthy and being able to learn are closely linked. The HPS enquiry cycle helps school communities to:


  • identify and prioritise the health and wellbeing needs that contribute to inequities within the school community
  • develop ways of meeting these needs and taking action that builds on the strengths within the school community
  • monitor and review the HPS process.

HPS builds bridges between the different groups in a school community: child, whānau/family, education, health and social service organisations. When guided by HPS, all these groups work together to make a difference to the community’s health.