The challenge of an integrated approach
Since the 90s, school environments have undergone significant changes in view of improving the system’s efficiency (the fight against dropping out and the challenge of student’s success. Youth health has also been targeted through various initiatives such as the “Healthy Schools” approach. Colleges are now also starting to adopt such approaches because, among other reasons, studies show that youth transitioning into adulthood are at increased risk of psychological distress.
Some research shows that stakeholders responsible for implementing these approaches are left struggling due to fragmented and scattered interventions. In addition, other research indicates that a third of professionals and teachers working in the Quebec school system are at high risk of burnout and that a third of long-term work absences are due to mental health problems. This data indicates that approaches, such as “Healthy Schools”, also need to reflect employee health and a healthy organizational climate.
Promotion and prevention approaches are becoming increasingly comprehensive, addressing the environment as well as the individual’s physical and psychological dimensions. Although they strongly rely on the cooperation of all stakeholders (managers, teachers, professionals, students), the challenge now is integrating health to the management practices in order for a true cultural change towards organizational health to be possible. Consequently, the integrated approach refers to two aspects in particular:
- Management practices that tap into individual managers’ human abilities (e.g., collaborative management, recognition, interpersonal communication, empathy);
- Organizational routines that refer to integration of health within organizational practices (e.g., human resources health policy, manager occupational health training, health-related factors in manager performance appraisal).
Employee health must be considered as an ingredient and a determinant, a means and the result of a “healthy school”. Thus a change in organizational culture that promotes every one’s health will only be possible through management’s concrete and visible commitment. In this perspective, employee health should be looked upon as a building block towards mobilization for the development of concerted, comprehensive and integrated approaches.