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The Okanagan Charter

Prioritizing Optimal Health & Well-being at McMaster

McMaster and The Okanagan Charter

In March 2017, McMaster University, with the approval of the University Senate and Board of Governors, signed the Okanagan Charter. The University’s governing bodies approved the following McMaster specific commitments to the Charter:

  1. McMaster commits to support the inclusion of health and well-being in the University’s strategic planning processes and to seek to embed considerations of health, wellness and sustainability in our institutional policies and decision-making processes.
  2. McMaster strives to nurture and support our students, faculty and staff to be as healthy as they can be and to create an inclusive, supportive and healthy educational environment and workplace.
  3. McMaster commits to support a thriving community, both within and beyond the borders of our campus, and strives to engage with and be a proactive, responsive and collaborative partner in our local and broader communities.
  4. McMaster commits to support the integration of educational initiatives and opportunities related to health and well-being across multiple disciplines, to foster an understanding of and commitment to health and wellness throughout the community.
  5. McMaster strives to advance research, education and training to promote and support health and well-being on a global scale, and commits to nurturing partnerships and collaborations, locally, nationally and internationally, to develop and mobilize such knowledge in support of a healthier planet.

McMaster University is one of several Canadian Institutions who have signed the Okanagan Charter. As one of the earliest adopters and one of the first in Ontario, McMaster has committed to integrating health and well-being into all aspects of campus life. The Okanagan Charter provides an opportunity to further health and well-being and ultimately creating a Brighter World for all.

The purpose of the Charter is to provide guidance and inspiration by providing a framework to promote the importance of health and well-being on higher education institutions. Additionally, the Charter strives to create an open dialogue between institutions locally and globally, thus continuing the development of health and well-being in institutions and within communities.

The Okanagan Charter

The Okanagan Charter is the outcome of the 2015 International Conference on Health Promoting Universities and Colleges held in Kelowna, British Columbia. The Charter was developed in collaboration with researchers, practitioners, administrators, students and policy makers from 45 countries representing both educational and health organizations. These included the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The Charter inspires universities to take action in embedding well-being into their everyday operations, business practices and academic mandates.

The Charter has two calls to action for higher education institutions:

  1. Embed health into all aspects of campus culture, across the administration, operations and academic mandates.
  2. Lead health promotion action and collaboration locally and globally

McMaster Okanagan Committee

Following McMaster’s signing of the Charter, the McMaster Okanagan Working Group was struck and tasked with providing leadership, coordination and oversight of initiatives related to the Calls to Action and McMaster’s commitments to the Charter. The goal was to create an appropriate institutional “home” for the initiative. The committee, chaired by Dr. Paul O’Byrne, met for the first time in March 2018.

The Committee continued to evolve, and in September 2019, the Committee was renamed the McMaster Okanagan Committee (MOC) and official Terms of Reference were adopted. At that time the McMaster Okanagan Committee also adopted the following:

Tagline: Prioritizing optimal health and well-being at McMaster.

Mission Statement: To promote inclusive and equitable initiatives that enhance the health and well-being of students, staff and faculty across McMaster campuses and our community.

Expandable List

Higher education plays a central role in all aspects of the development of individuals, communities, societies, and cultures- locally and globally.

Higher education has a unique opportunity to provide transformative education, engage the student voice, develop new knowledge and understanding, lead by example and advocate to decision-makers for the benefit of society. In the emergent knowledge society, higher education institutions are positioned to generate, share and implement knowledge and research findings to enhance health of citizens and communities both now and in the future.

A University or College is, by its very nature, an essential part of any systemic health promotion strategy, working collaboratively in trans-disciplinary and cross-sector ways. This Charter calls upon higher education institutions to incorporate health promotion values and principles into their mission, vision and strategic plans, and model and test approaches for the wider community and society.

From June 22-25 2015, researchers, practitioners, administrators, students and policy makers from 45 different countries engaged in the International Conference that resulted in the creation of the Okanagan Charter. The first draft of the Charter was written by 225 individuals through a pre-conference survey. The first draft was then refined by 380 delegates at the International Conference on Health Promoting Universities and Colleges, supported by a writing team for assistance. Delegates from higher education institutes, the World Health Organization, Pan American Health Organization, and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) pledged to bring the official Okanagan Charter back to their settings to use it as a catalyst within their communities.

Through dissemination and use of the Charter in higher education, network building and future conferences, our hope is that health promotion will be advanced internationally.

Health promoting universities and colleges infuse health into everyday operations, business practices and academic mandates. By doing so, health promoting universities and colleges enhance the success of our institutions; create campus cultures of compassion, well-being, equity and social justice; improve the health of the people who live, learn, work, play and love on our campuses; and strengthen the ecological, social and economic sustainability of our communities and wider society.