Seven universities adopt Okanagan Charter, join UAB in U.S. Health Promoting Campus Network

Seven universities have adopted the Okanagan Charter and joined the United States Health Promoting Campuses Network.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham was the first in the United States to adopt the Okanagan Charter, in December 2020. The first cohort of campuses to join UAB in adopting the Charter on Sept. 1 are Northern Illinois University; University at Albany, State University of New York; University of California, Berkeley; University of California, Irvine; University of Michigan; University of North Florida; and Western Washington University.

The first cohort of campuses to join UAB in adopting the Charter on Sept. 1 are Northern Illinois University; University at Albany, State University of New York; University of California, Berkeley; University of California, Irvine; University of Michigan; University of North Florida; and Western Washington University.

“UAB, as network chair of Health Promoting Universities in the United States, is pleased to welcome this first cohort of partner institutions who have recently adopted the Okanagan Charter,” said UAB President Ray L. Watts. “We look forward to our partnership with these universities and others, nationally and internationally, who join this ambitious effort to transform health and sustainability in communities in North America and throughout the world.” 

Health Promoting Universities are an international community that aspires to transform the health and sustainability of current and future societies, strengthen communities, and contribute to the well-being of people, places and the planet. Evidence shows that people who are well are more productive, are better able to engage in deeper learning, have a greater sense of belonging and have a stronger sense of community.

The USHPCN is guided by the Okanagan Charter: An International Charter for Health Promoting University and Colleges, which calls on higher-education institutions to embed health into all aspects of campus culture and to lead health-promotion action and collaboration locally and globally. Created in June 2015, the Charter provides to institutions a common vision, language, principles and calls to action to become health- and well-being-promoting campuses.

“We look forward to our partnership with these universities and others, nationally and internationally, who join this ambitious effort to transform health and sustainability in communities in North America and throughout the world.” – UAB President Ray L. Watts.

The network allows members to support each other and collaborate on the work of becoming a health-promoting campus.

“Now more than ever, we recognize how important it is to embed health into all aspects of campus culture and for institutes of higher education to be leaders in health promotion action and collaboration locally and globally,” said Rebecca Kennedy, Ph.D., chair of the USHPCN executive committee and assistant vice president for Student Health and Wellbeing at UAB.

Being part of the first cohort of U.S. universities to adopt the Okanagan Charter is “a testament to the university’s commitment to health and well-being not only internally, but throughout the region in all areas UCI touches,” said Doug Everhart, director of UCI’s Center for Student Wellness and Health Promotion, and member of the executive committee of the U.S. Health Promoting Campuses Network.

 

Similar networks are active internationally, including in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Germany, Canada and Ibero-America. The establishment of this network is supported by the International Health Promoting Universities & Colleges network. 

Another cohort of universities formally adopting the Okanagan Charter for Health Promoting Universities and Colleges is excellent news, says Professor Mark Dooris, Ph.D., co-chair of the International Health Promoting Universities and Colleges Steering Group and co-chair of the U.K. Healthy Universities Network.

“This is testament to the passionate work of those leading the fast-growing U.S. Health Promoting Campuses Network — inspiring and mobilizing the higher-education sector to play its part in a growing global movement transforming the health and sustainability of society, strengthening communities, and promoting the well-being of people, places and the planet,” Dooris said.

By adopting the Charter, each HPU is making institutional commitments to both the charter and its own strategic plan for how it lives out and implements health promotion on its campus and in its community. By doing so, health-promoting universities and colleges improve the health of the people who live, learn, work, play and love on their campuses and strengthen the ecological, social and economic sustainability of their communities and wider society. 

Formalizing a commitment to translate the Okanagan Charter into action is an enormously important signal of a university’s commitment, says Matt Dolf, Ph.D., co-chair of the International Health Promoting Universities and Colleges Steering Group and chair of the Canadian Health Promoting Campuses Network.

“The momentum building among U.S. universities around advancing the Okanagan Charter comes at a critical time,” Dolf said. “Higher-education settings are uniquely positioned to be agents of change within campus communities and in broader society in the face of simultaneous planetary, health and social crises. The Okanagan Charter provides the shared vision and call to action for us to mobilize and become health-promoting campuses and networks.”