Health promotion in Icelandic communities and the upper secondary school of FAS
Health promotion aims to influence people’s lifestyles and enable them to live a healthy life in healthy conditions. In addition to general education on these topics, emphasis is placed on what people of all ages can do for themselves to improve their mental and physical health by considering daily habits and attitudes. Health promotion seeks to promote health by creating social, cultural and economic conditions and environments that enable individuals and society to increase their fitness and to raise awareness and the desire to maintain health.
Many municipalities in Iceland, including the ones in the south region, take part in a national collaborative project called Health Promoting Community. It is a holistic approach led by the Directorate of Health and executed in collaboration and consultation with municipalities, public institutions, non-governmental organizations, etc. The Directorate of Health is a government agency headed by the Director of Health. Its principal role is to promote high-quality and safe health care for the people of Iceland, health promotion, and effective disease prevention measures.
One of many aspects of the Health Promoting Community is the Health Promoting Schools.
FAS is an upper-secondary school located in the south–east of Iceland and it takes part in a project called Health promoting upper-secondary schools. That project is based on the policy of approaching health promotion and prevention from a broad and positive perspective, with the aim of promoting wellbeing and increased success for everyone in the school community, students and staff. The approach provides increased opportunities to strengthen relationships with the local community and thus increase support and opportunities for students and staff to adopt a positive and healthy lifestyle.
According to the National Curriculum Guide for Upper Secondary Schools (2011), Health and Welfare is now one of the six basic elements of education. Participation in Health promoting upper secondary school supports schools in implementing this basic element in all their work. Health promotion in the school environment is based on the Ottawa Convention of the World Health Organization (WHO). The emphasis factors that the criteria for the health promotion upper secondary schools contain are based on the following topics: exercise, nutrition, mental health, tobacco and e-cigarettes, alcohol and drugs, equality and sexual health and finally, security.
In FAS, one topic is chosen as the main emphasis factor for health promoting and is worked on in a variety of ways, e.g., with diverse education, collaboration, project- and theme work. Other topics are also relevant and a part of the everyday school life.
The latest steps that have been taken in FAS within the health promoting work is to establish a cooperation with Hugarafl (e. Mindpower), to support the school regarding mental health prevention and support. Hugarafl is an Icelandic peer run NGO where people with professional background and/or personal experience of mental health problem work as equals in supporting those in need for mental recovery. That is done mainly through empowerment and the vision that every individual should have the opportunity to find their own path of mental healing – https://hugarafl.is/about-hugarafl/
Another thing is a health promoting project that is now being developed in Nýheimar, knowledge centre, that FAS is a part of. The knowledge centre houses various institutions working in the fields of education, culture, innovation and research. These institutions participate in manifold cooperation with in and outside of Nýheimar and are now working on ways to promote health in the workplace in various ways – https://nyheimar.is/english/
The third health promoting aspect of FAS’s activities is related to the schools mountaineering education. Mountaineering has been taught as a part of the vocational part of the school for several years. There has been significant growth in the mountaineering studies this school year, with an increasing number of students and teachers – https://fjallanam.is
Outdoor activities are one of the main factors that are identified as characteristic features of health-promoting tourism in Iceland, the other is the nation’s bathing culture, outdoor swimming pools, natural geothermal pools and luxuries spas. Being able to educate people with knowledge and skills to lead others safely through the mountains and glaciers of Iceland, connecting education, the working community and wellbeing tourism is something that the school is very proud of.
Hulda Laxdal Hauksdóttir
Framhaldsskólinn í Austur-Skaftafellssýslu – FAS.