101 examples of improving the health and well-being of children and adolescents through intersectoral action

WHO

Numerous social, economic, environmental, political, cultural and commercial determinants affect the health, well-being, and social, emotional and cognitive development of young people, both in childhood and in later life.
WHO has developed a compendium of case studies and stories showing how working across the health and social, and the health and education sectors contributes to solving complex health inequalities and improving health and well-being. The compendium offers examples of how to craft and implement intersectoral initiatives and programming, and explores why the examples are effective as well as the challenges they faced. It is intended for use across agencies and sectors, including ministries, government stakeholders and public policy-makers.

Common success factors

Several factors appear regularly in the examples. These include involving children and adolescents in a meaningful way in both the design and application of the initiatives; incorporating evaluation through regular reviews and adjustments; ensuring sectors develop the projects together on an equal footing; targeting groups in vulnerable situations without creating discrimination; and incorporating action at different levels, from country to community.

Examples from the compendium

Armenia – The Healthy Lifestyle training course is for schoolchildren in grades 8–11. Its lessons focus on developing students’ decision-making skills as well as training them to withstand peer pressure, deal with stress and discuss responsible behaviour.

Estonia – The National Health Action Plan 2009–2020 covers 5 areas, including ensuring healthy and safe development for children. Its activities are open for public review, and as a national, intersectoral body it is accountable, transparent, and has the potential to foster ownership of intersectoral action across sectors, including civil society.

Finland – The KiVa programme is a school-wide approach to decreasing the incidence of bullying and its negative effects on students’ well-being. It is based on the idea that the way in which peer bystanders behave when witnessing bullying plays a critical role in perpetuating or ending the incident.

France – The country facilitates interministry action for health by designating a senior official in each ministry as the contact person for health. The Ministry of Health promotes the concept of health democracy by inviting health stakeholders to co-create public health policy at all levels. A new concept of the Health Pathway programme is for the Ministry of Health to set children’s health goals, and for the Ministry of Education to be responsible for health outcomes.

Georgia – A joint programme between sections of the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs brings educational elements to childcare centres. Targeting children from economically disadvantaged families, it focuses on 3 elements: elementary life skills, literacy and mathematics. The programme also educates health, social and education sector staff on how best to support these children.

Montenegro – A network of over 100 childcare centres at the local level is improving the situation of children with disabilities, including intellectual disabilities. It seeks to protect their rights, and their socialization and inclusion in the community. Creating the network of childcare centres is a key aspect of the country’s social welfare reform.

Norway – A study to improve self-esteem among socially withdrawn schoolchildren highlights children’s personal strengths and successes as valuable learning experiences, rather than their experience of deficits and failures. School nurses receive training in this solutions-focused approach, and nurses, teachers and professors foster collaborative interprofessional relationships with each other.

Russian Federation – The 15 programme comprises group-based training sessions for adolescents and their parents or guardians. The joint discussions aim to improve parent–child relations and strengthen participants’ knowledge of substance abuse, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Among adolescents who participated in the programme, the percentage of smokers decreased from 27% to 3%.

Spain – The Shape Up approach to health promotion has been successfully implemented in 20 European Union countries, beginning with Spain. It views children and schools as catalysts for health promotion at the community level, and looks beyond modifying children’s behaviour and assuming that the responsibility for childhood obesity lies with the child. Instead, it enables children and adolescents to critically explore and improve health-related conditions, practices and choices at the family, school, community, city and wider levels.

United Kingdom: Northern Ireland – Belfast Healthy Cities developed a teaching resource for child-friendly environments that involves teachers and children preparing proposals to make their local environments healthier for children, for example, by redeveloping derelict lots into green spaces.

About the high-level conference

The aim of the conference is to strengthen intersectoral cooperation between the health, education and social sectors in the WHO European Region, for better, more equal health and social outcomes for children and adolescents and their families. Organized by WHO/Europe, it will bring together Member States, representatives of international organizations and civil society, and experts. The conference is hosted by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health of France.

The conference’s main objectives are to:

  • find common areas for policy action between the health, education and social sectors;
  • identify joint approaches and concrete actions to promote health and social literacy, in order to improve health and well-being, social outcomes and equity; and
  • outline ways to strengthen intersectoral collaboration between the health, education and social sectors, including at different levels of government.

The conference will be webcast live, and there will be real-time coverage on Twitter using the hashtag #together4health.