CHANDIGARH: Schools are perhaps the best sites to study the health standards of a city. If good health measured along various parameters can be achieved in schools, it will go a long way in making the community healthy. An exercise in this direction has been going on in Chandigarh since 2009, and after a decade of sustained efforts yielding positive results, the School Health Accreditation Project or SHAP is all set to be launched at the national level.

The exercise in Chandigarh was conducted in two phases by the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research, involving 17 schools in the pilot phase and later bringing all 204 schools here under its umbrella.

The result is that these schools, both government run and private ones, now stand categorised as platinum, gold, silver and bronze according to the health of their environment. Parents now know which schools are the healthiest for their children.

According to J.S.Thakur of the department of community medicine at the School of Public Health in PGIMER, “The most interesting thing is that government schools have also improved significantly and they stand at par with private schools.”

Thakur said that SHAP’s objectives were to assess and classify the schools for accreditation as health promoting schools, to compare the health profile of students in higher-accredited schools with lower ones, and provide interventions for schools to self- improve their accreditation levels while conducting the end line assessment.

The exercise involved interventions along eight parameters and 24 indicators. These included the primary parameter of a healthy school environment, with indicators like access to adequate lighting, clean drinking water and clean toilets, sufficient dustbins for refuse disposal and school safety, and an emergency evacuation plan for which everyone has been trained.

The second parameter was health promotion awareness, through indicators like the presence of a school health committee, a notice board, posters and other means of popularising health promotion, student awareness and understanding of it, the presence of a coordinator and a curriculum that emphasises health.

The third parameter was of school health services, with indicators like health cards, first-aid kits and the training of students and staff in its use.

One of the most interesting parameters was school nutrition services, where the emphasis was on nutrition education besides the monitoring of canteens and meals served, and the availability of healthy food and drink options.

Schools were also evaluated with regard to the minimum number of hours of physical activity per week by all students, within or outside the curriculum.

Then there was the parameter of psychological counselling and social services, which had indicators like social programmes and controlling health risk behaviour, apart from adolescent education programmes and life skills education.

The other two parameters were community partnership and the involvement of schools in establishing more such health-promoting schools and ensuring their accreditation.

Of the categories of accreditation, the bronze level is the foundation level where the school administration understands and prepares to implement the ranking framework. They must develop a year-long need-based action and evaluation plan. School health committees must be formed and health cards prepared, including immunisation records for every student and records for students with special medical needs.