Western Washington University is one of seven universities — and the first in the Northwest — to have adopted the Okanagan Charter and joined the United States Health Promoting Campuses Network, 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.
In adopting the charter this September, Western joins Northern Illinois University; University at Albany, State University of New York; University of California, Berkeley; University of California, Irvine; University of Michigan; and University of North Florida; with the University of Alabama at Birmingham as the first in the U.S. to adopt the Okanagan Charter in December 2020.
The U.S. Health Promoting Campus Network is guided by the Okanagan Charter, an International Charter for Health Promoting University and Colleges. 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. 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.
“Adopting the Okanagan Charter is a significant and important first step in continuing the wellbeing transformation of Western Washington University’s culture,” said Sislena Grocer Ledbetter, Associate Vice President for Counseling, Health and Wellbeing at Western, who holds a doctorate in psychology. “While COVID has forced us to think about public health constantly over the past 18 months, we are excited to continue centering health and wellbeing in every aspect of our work in administration, academics and operations.”
By adopting the Charter, each Health Promoting University 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.
“I am excited that our campus is on board to adopt this framework and signal to Western’s community that we are serious about dedicating time, talent, and resources to emphasizing everyone’s wellbeing in everything that we do at Western,” Ledbetter said.
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. The network allows members to support each other and collaborate on the work of becoming a health-promoting campus.
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.