Comprehensive School Health

Comprehensive School Health (CSH) is a way to link health and education within the school setting. It is an internationally-recognized framework for building a healthy school community by supporting improvements in students' educational outcomes while addressing school health in a planned, integrated and holistic way. (Joint Consortium for School Health)

This page outlines what CSH is and how it relates to the Canadian Healthy School Standards, developed by the Canadian Healthy Schools Alliance (more on this below).

Please note that we do not control the content of or maintain these links. Should you come across a broken link or incorrect content, click here to let us know.

The whole-school model of CSH builds capacity to incorporate well-being as an essential aspect of student achievement. Actions address four distinct but inter-related components that comprise a comprehensive school health framework (Joint Consortium for School Health):

Teaching and Learning

Teaching and learning encompasses formal and informal curriculum, resources and associated activities. It means the knowledge, understanding and skills for school communities to improve their health and enhance learning outcomes. Professional Development opportunities for staff related to health and well-being would fall under this component.

Social and Physical Environment

The social environment is the quality of the relationships among and between staff and students.

The physical environment is the buildings, grounds, play space and equipment both in and surrounding the school. The physical environment should be safe, accessible and supportive of healthy choices.

Partnership and Services

In a CSH context, partnerships and services are supportive working relationships with other community organizations. It includes health, education and other sectors working together to advance health; as well as community and school-based services that support health and wellness for all.


Policy means the policies, guidelines and practices that promote and support student well-being and achievement, and shape a respectful, welcoming and caring school environment for all members of the school community.

When actions in all four components are harmonized, students are supported to realize their full potential as learners — and as healthy, productive members of society. (Joint Consortium for School Health)

Currently in Alberta, three key priority areas for CSH have been identified:

  • Active Living
  • Healthy Eating
  • Mental Well-being

Other priority areas could include staff wellness, student leadership, injury prevention, growth and development, substance use, equity, diversity and inclusion and reconciliation.

Comprehensive School Health 4 Circles Book Men 15 Dec. 2015 768x763

Effective, sustainable progress in CSH depends on a common vision, shared responsibilities and harmonized actions among health, education and other sectors. The challenge is to coordinate these efforts so that partners pool resources and develop action plans together, with and in support of schools. This is known as the CSH Process.

Resources to Support the CSH Process

  • Steps for Building Healthy School Communities (Alberta Health Services) — This website houses tools, templates and resources to support you in going through the six step comprehensive school health process: prepare; create a shared vision; determine priority issues; develop an action plan; implement and monitor; and reflect, evaluate and celebrate.
  • Healthy School Planner Tool (Pan-Canadian Joint Consortium for School Health (JCSH)) — Online tool to help schools create healthier environments. It offers a way to assess the overall environment as well as the option to focus on specific topics such as healthy eating, active living, tobacco or mental well-being. Includes recommendations and links to resources.

Comprehensive School Health recognizes that healthy students learn better and achieve more. It understands that schools can directly influence students' health and behaviours; encourages healthy lifestyle choices by promoting student health and well-being; and  incorporates health into all aspects of school and learning.

CSH needs the participation and support of families and the community at large.

The Healthy Schools Certification can support your school community to implement the CSH process and meet the Canadian Healthy School Standards (below). This certification gives your school the tools to promote and enhance the health and well-being of students, school staff and the broader school community, guided by the following goals:

  • To support schools that want to enhance the health and well-being of their students and staff
  • To increase student engagement and leadership opportunities to support health and well-being at school
  • To increase adult engagement in prioritizing health and well-being at school
  • To strengthen community engagement and partnerships

Learn more about the Healthy Schools Certification and register your school here.

Canadian Healthy School Standards

The Canadian Healthy Schools Alliance launched the Canadian Healthy School Standards (the Standards) and subsequent toolkit for school system leaders in 2021. The Standards aim to spark conversations and be a tipping point where the school community comes together in a way that:

  • reinforces specific accountability and processes for taking a systemic approach to enhancing well-being in schools;
  • builds on existing work;
  • centres equity, diversity and inclusion;
  • acts on truth and reconciliation; and 
  • supports staff well-being.

The Standards define a healthy school as a school that centres holistic health and well-being in its policies, curriculum, people, relationships and environment.

CSH and the Standards

The Standards build on existing work related to Comprehensive School Health. The CSH framework has been used as a starting place as a catalyst for change. 

The Standards promote strengths-based approaches focused primarily in two areas: illuminating and deepening the strengths within the school community, and moving from fragmented activities towards a comprehensive, system-wide approach to creating a climate that supports well-being across a school system.

Starting Points

Starting Points require attention and stewardship at school or district leadership levels. These Starting Points align with and build on the Essential Conditions of Comprehensive School Health. Critical elements looks like:

Getting Familiar with the Standards

A clear understanding of Healthy Schools and why it’s important by all those who hold leadership positions within the educational system can support readiness and reflective practices. Create opportunities for school and district-level conversations about well-being, how it is understood and valued and what’s involved.


Including Healthy School activities in school and board improvement plans, policies and budgets will ensure efforts are interconnected, planned and properly resourced. Support from system leaders influences personal and professional prioritization of well-being. Leaders with a vision for well-being can, through policy, trigger a cascade of connected, sustainable and responsive action.

Funding and Project Support

Sustainable funding, and budget allocations that consider how each item relates to well-being, greatly impact implementation.


Enough time needs to be dedicated for implementation and success. When approving budgets consider how each item relates to well-being. Allotting time for dedicated human resources allows for Healthy School efforts to be viewed as an embedded and meaningful part of the school’s culture.

Community Connectivity

Partnership with community members built on trust and mutual respect brings new perspectives, strengths and capacity into schools. It expands ownership for the well-being of students beyond the school walls, adding expertise and resources, and reflecting the diversity of the students within the school.

Staff Well-being

The well-being of school staff is interconnected with Healthy Schools. Attending to and investing in staff wellness and balance can increase energy, retention, and job fulfillment and is critical to achieving Healthy Schools.

Foundational Standards

Foundational Standards are underlying concepts and frameworks that must be present for the Implementation Standards (below) to be successful. These include:

  • Whole school approach
  • Well-being integrated across all curricula
  • Charting your unique plan – every school and community is unique, with diverse capacities and values, and is located in varied cultural, physical, environmental and social settings

Implementation Standards

Implementation Standards allow each school community to develop an individual, specialized plan to leverage their assets and cater to their specific interests. These Implementation Standards align with and build upon the Essential Conditions of Comprehensive School Health.

Students are the heart of achieving a Healthy School Community. Their voices, leadership, and enthusiasm create increased and meaningful engagement. Students serve as change makers through peer-to-peer and student-to-teacher interactions and in their school communities through storytelling/ reaching/influencing others around them to make healthy choices for themselves, their families and the school community. All students bring unique skills, strengths, experiences and knowledge into the school community.

When working towards a Healthy School Community, activities should be driven by the school community, working to meet the interests of the school community, not in a top-down manner. By widening the conversation, the school community can weave various relational, cultural, physical and environmental experiences, strengths and assets into the Healthy School activities.

Principals and/or other administrators play an invaluable role throughout the Healthy School process and are a key leader in mobilizing a culture shift within a school community. Administrative leaders should be actively engaged, rather than being merely sideline supporters and offering passive buy-in.

Leadership and support at district, union, provincial/ territorial and/or First Nation/Métis/Inuit levels set the tone, build the confidence among the school community that health and well-being is highly valued, demonstrate commitment and provide resources (time/funding/staff) to Healthy School activities. This confidence can widen and deepen school community engagement.

Healthy School champions are a key ingredient in the success of any Healthy School process. A dedicated staff champion is required to provide leadership, support the implementation of projects, and ensure on-going interconnection of Healthy School programming in schools. The staff champion can be a Principal, Assistant Principal, School Counsellor, Student Services Lead, Teacher, Educational Assistant, Secretary/Administrative Assistant, Building Maintenance personnel, etc.

Establishing strong internal and external relationships and building active partnerships with the community outside of the school walls play a key role in the success of establishing a Healthy School. This supportive community can become the backbone to the Healthy Schools process and should include a blend of Students, Parents/Guardians, Community and Local Business Partners, Student School Leadership, and School Board/Authority/District or Government Officials. This Healthy School Committee will help Healthy School activities gain traction, help strengthen their impact and extend the reach of the activity beyond the school walls.

Gathering evidence in the form of school-based process and outcomes information, stories, individualized school reports and research findings takes time and resources. Often this is a challenging step in the process, but it can be very useful in planning, refining, and supporting school communities in the longer term. Teams should continually collect and reflect on focused evidence from their school community and partners to chart and re-chart their Healthy Schools activities.

Professional learning and development prior to Healthy School program initiation is key for building knowledge, skills, confidence and motivation. Ongoing formal and informal learning opportunities should be made available. School staff should seek out and attend Healthy School and (w)holistic well-being conferences and workshops and create personal learning networks and book clubs to strengthen capacity within the school.

Storey, K. E., Montemurro, G., Flynn, J., Schwartz, M., Wright, E., Osler, J., Veugelers, P. J., & Roberts, E. (2016). Essential conditions for the implementation of comprehensive school health to achieve changes in school culture and improvements in health behaviours of students. BMC Public Health, 16, 1133. [Open Access]