“Health in all Policies“ in Practice: multisectoral collaboration to promote walking as a mode of transport among school-aged children.
World Conference on health promotion
Background: Walking, as a form of exercise, promotes health and can contribute to a reduction of traffic as well as reduced environmental pollution. The promotion of physical activity in early childhood has been shown to be an important instrument in improving levels of health and overall wellbeing. The aim of this study was to show the influence of walking to school on kinesic behaviour of children and to determine the impact of walking on CO2 emission levels. Method: A quantitative survey was carried out in seven primary schools which took part in the “Schoolwalker” part of the project „Gemeinsam gesund im Bezirk Oberwart“. Data was collected first via a standardised questionnaire between October 2010 and June 2011. Second, via semi-structured interviews with teachers, changes in social skills, and levels of attention and concentration among children were ascertained. Results: In addition to promoting social behaviour and increasing the number of children walking to school to 48.56 %, we determined a reduction of 3.9 kg CO2 per child per year. This corresponds to a total reduction of 1.4 tonnes (among 370 children). Conclusion: Projects aimed at promoting physical activity, such as Schoolwalker, can lead to reductions in CO2 hence promoting protection of the climate and environment. The “Health in all Policies” approach is necessary to promote health through policies which are under the control of non-health sectors, requiring considerable multisectoral collaboration. This requires an enhanced awareness and consideration of the interplay between health and especially transport and the environment. Conversely, health promotion should increasingly consider the environmental impact of its policies by viewing environmental management as an instrument of health promotion. Further studies are necessary to create basic structural conditions to develop and promote walking to school and to integrate the topic “ecology” into health promotion.