Okanagan Charter: The Okanagan Charter is a guiding and aspirational document that was developed as an outcome of the 2015 International Conference on Health Promoting Universities and Colleges. Health promotion scholars and professionals from around the world gathered to create this document. Its purpose is to guide colleges and universities, using their unique positions and roles in research, teaching and service to their communities, to be leaders for the world in developing and modeling health-promoting strategies in their campus settings. Local communities could then learn from their example and modeling, thus influencing global health and wellbeing strategy. The key is moving beyond traditional approaches of influencing individual behavior, and moving upstream to systems level and environmental strategies that influence the health and wellbeing of person, place and planet.
National Networks: After the development and release of the Okanagan Charter in 2015, several countries used the document as a foundational tool to create national networks of campuses that would use the Charter to guide their wellbeing initiatives and work. Today strong national networks exist in the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, Germany and IberoAmerica, among others. The United Kingdom, under the leadership of Dr. Mark Dooris, and Canada, led by the work of Dr. Matt Dolf, are recognized global leaders in this work.
United States Health Promoting Campuses Network (USHPCN): Talk of the Okanagan Charter in the United States began to take off in early 2018, at the NASPA Strategies Conference in Portland, Oregon. Dr. Mark Dooris (U.K.) and Dr. Matt Dolf (Canada) were keynote and session presenters, respectively, sharing the work they were doing to advance systems level work in health promotion on campuses across their countries. Talk began of starting a network in the U.S. In January of 2020, as a NASPA Strategies Pre-Conference session, representatives from 30-40 campuses gathered in New Orleans, Louisiana to discuss the Okanagan Charter and the movement to create a national network. Out of that meeting, several campus representatives met again in April (on Zoom, due to the pandemic) to discuss building a national network, and a Steering Group was formed to lead the process. Interested campuses began monthly meetings in November, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham became the first U.S. institution to formally adopt the Charter in December. The first USHPCN Summit was held in February (2021), featuring Dr. Mark Dooris and Dr. Matt Dolf as speakers. By March, more than 40 campuses were actively involved in the network. The ultimate goal of the network is to guide and support campuses, as they navigate the process to adopt the Okanagan Charter as an aspirational document to guide their campus wellbeing efforts from a comprehensive and systems level approach. The USHPCN is a support network that helps campuses define, develop strategies, and create metrics for what it means to be a health promoting campus, as it will be different for each campus, based on their unique circumstances, resources, and needs. The network is also adding new campuses along the way.
Cohorts: The first cohort in 2021 included the University of Alabama at Birmingham and 7 other campuses who adopted within the 2021 calendar year. The cohort approach has allowed the campuses to work together and learn from each other, as well as having the network amplify the celebration. Each year, campuses will self-select into a new cohort to begin their adoption journey.
Institutions of Higher Education in the US and its territories are invited to formally adopt the Okanagan Charter: An International Charter for Health Promoting Campuses.
In the US the adoption process is facilitated by the US Health Promoting Campuses Network as a way for campus leaders to strengthen and formalize their commitment to activating the Okanagan Charter’s Vision, Calls to Action, and Principles. Our shared adoption process demonstrates our commitment to the aspirations outlined in the Okanagan Charter.
We recognize that the specific activation and commitments around the Okanagan Charter will differ according to unique campus contexts.
How was the Okanagan Charter developed?
The Okanagan Charter was a key outcome of the 2015 International Conference on Health Promoting Universities and Colleges. The Okanagan Charter provides a framework with a vision, two calls to action with key action areas, and overall principles that together guide the development of Health Promoting Campuses across the globe.
The Okanagan Charter was developed in collaboration with researchers, practitioners, administrators, students, and policy makers from 45 countries representing both educational institutions and health organizations. These included the World Health Organization (WHO), Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
At the conference, 380 higher education leaders and delegates, signed a pledge to bring the Okanagan Charter “back to their settings to inspire and catalyze further action towards the creation of health promoting universities and colleges.”
The Okanagan Charter has inspired universities around the world to take action in embedding well-being into their everyday operations, business practices and academic mandates.
What are some benefits of “adopting” the Okanagan Charter and becoming a health promoting institution?
Universities, colleges, and other higher education institutions are in a unique position to inform health and well-being knowledge, education, and research. Adopting the Okanagan Charter has many benefits:
Demonstrate leadership: Formal adoption of the Okanagan Charter by senior leadership reaffirms your institutions commitment to furthering health, well-being, and sustainability and sends a powerful signal to the broader community.
Engage your community: Use the Okanagan Charter as a way to generate dialogue and research to inform health and well-being initiatives on campus and in the broader community and nation.
Support the well-being of your community: Guide and inspire action to help your faculty, staff and students achieve their full potential in teaching, learning, research, and engagement. Evidence shows that people who are well are more productive, better able to engage in deeper learning, have a greater sense of belonging, and a stronger sense of community.
Join the movement: Become an active participant in the US Health Promoting Campuses Network, a network of institutions actively promoting health and well-being in higher education across the United States and internationally.
What are the required steps for formally “adopting” the Okanagan Charter?
Adopting the Okanagan Charter and taking a systems and settings-based approach to embedding well-being requires collaboration from a diverse range of campus leaders. Higher education institutions that would like to formally adopt the Okanagan Charter should consider undertaking the following steps:
Engage: Begin conversations with colleagues, senior leadership, and the broader community about adopting the Okanagan Charter.
Commit: Join the USHPCN signifying your intent to adopt. Work with senior leadership on your campus to create campus-specific Okanagan Charter commitments and decide if your university adoption timeline fits with a fall or spring cohort adoption date. You can formally adopt outside of a fall or spring cohort or share resources, processes and timelines with other institutions within a particular cohort.
Adopt: Work with your institution Chancellor, University President, or similar position of leadership to formally adopt the charter by signing the USHPCN “Statement of Adoption.”
Submit: Send the Statement of Adoption and institution-specific commitments to the US Health Promoting Campus Network Chair (see item #8). The USHPCN Chair will review the above documents and confirm Okanagan Charter adoption. Following approval, your institution’s logo will be listed on the USHPCN website as formally adopting the charter.
Celebrate: We highly recommend organizing an event/announcement to celebrate the Okanagan Charter adoption!
Is my campus eligible to adopt the Okanagan Charter?
If you are an institution of Higher Education in the United States and its territories (university, college or community college) you are eligible.
How much does it cost to join?
There is no cost to join.
What is required of me to join?
Interest in becoming a Health Promoting Campus and adopting the Okanagan Charter and being a college or university in the US or its territories.
Do I have to work for an Institution of Higher Education to be a network member?
Yes. Memberships are granted to colleges and universities, not to individual members. Each campus may select up to two liaisons to attend meetings and have access to resources.
What are the benefits of joining?
The ability to connect with other campuses who have adopted the Okanagan Charter.
Rebecca Kennedy (Chair) – University of Alabama at Birmingham
Chris Dawe – Northwest Missouri State University
Joyce Dewitt-Parker – State University of New York, Albany
Doug Everhart – University of California, Irvine
Sislena Ledbetter – Western Washington University
Ruben Sanca – University of Massachusetts-Lowell
Paula Swinford – University of Southern California
Marian Trattner – Wake Forest University
If your campus is interested in joining the USHPCN, or if you have questions or want more information about the network, please contact us.