The University of Toronto Scarborough has adopted the Okanagan Charter, a formal commitment to embed health and wellbeing into all aspects of campus culture.
“Oftentimes when people think of a healthy campus, they think of our health and wellness centre or access to health-care professionals,” says Sheila John, assistant dean of wellness, recreation and sport at U of T Scarborough. “We want to expand that narrative so everyone knows a healthy campus is everyone’s responsibility. It’s part of everything we do at U of T Scarborough, from the way classes are structured to the way campus spaces are designed.”
The Okanagan Charter was created in 2015 by researchers, students, policy-makers, and other health and education professionals across 45 countries. The charter challenges universities around the world to make their campuses and communities healthier, and to act as leaders in tackling barriers to health and wellbeing.
Central to the charter is health promotion — the process of empowering people to gain control over their health. The charter has two calls to action: to integrate health into every part of campus culture, and to further health promotion by acting and collaborating locally and globally.
By adopting the charter, U of T Scarborough has become the 37th member of the Canadian Health Promoting Campus Network, a national network connecting charter-signing universities and colleges through conferences, events and shared resources.
“With official recognition through the Canadian Health Promoting Campuses Network, we will continue to foster a healthy campus by looking for more opportunities to transform our campus’ health and sustainability and contribute to our community’s wellbeing,” says Wisdom Tettey, University of Toronto vice-president and principal of U of T Scarborough.
Since 2016, U of T Scarborough has integrated the pursuit of a healthy campus into its strategic priorities. The campus also recently consulted with students, staff, faculty and librarians to create commitment statements as part of the charter recognition process. U of T Scarborough has pledged to:
- Promote student, staff and faculty wellbeing through capacity-building and experiential learning opportunities.
- Support research that advances health promotion through partnerships and collaboration.
- Use existing partnerships to create interdisciplinary approaches to health-related student programming and supports.
- Co-create a health promotion action plan rooted in social justice, equity and diversity.
- Advocate for buildings and facilities that support wellbeing, healthy living and a sense of belonging.
- Develop a healthy campus communication strategy to highlight resources, programs, facilities and local green spaces that boost health and wellbeing.
The healthy campus initiative is the driving force behind the adoption of the charter. The initiative has worked to spotlight and support health-enhancing activities, events, programming, spaces and partnerships on campus since 2016.
“Our mission is to support students, staff, faculty and librarians to prioritize their wellness, while helping to build and sustain a healthy campus that serves us all,” says John, who leads the healthy campus initiative.
U of T Scarborough will celebrate its signing of the Okanagan Charter with an event on Jan. 31.