Peering in: youth perspectives on Health Promoting Schools and youth engagement in Nova Scotia, Canada

Julia C. Kontak, Hilary A.T. Caldwell, Margaret Kay-Arora, Camille L. Hancock Friesen, Sara F.L. Kirk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Health Promoting Schools (HPS) is a whole-school approach that shapes the conditions necessary to support student health and well-being. Youth engagement is recognized as key to HPS implementation, yet research related to the involvement of youth voice in school health promotion initiatives is limited. The purpose of this study was to understand youth perspectives on HPS and school youth engagement. Ten youth (grades 9-10, ages 14-16) were trained as peer researchers using a Youth Participatory Action Research approach. The peer researchers interviewed 23 of their peers (grades 7-10, ages 12-16) on perspectives related to HPS and school youth engagement. All interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed and data were analysed using inductive 'codebook' thematic analysis. Themes related to a healthy school community were mapped onto the pillars of HPS: (i) Social and Physical Environment, (ii) Teaching and Learning, (iii) Partnerships and Services and (iv) School Policies. Participants placed more importance on the social and physical environment of the school including respect, inclusivity, supportive relationships and the design of spaces. Key factors for youth engagement were: (i) safe and supportive spaces, (ii) passion and interest, (iii) using their voice, (iv) power dynamics, (v) accessibility and (vi) awareness. With recognition that youth engagement is a crucial part of HPS, this work provides relevant and applicable information on areas of the healthy school community that are important to youth, and if/how they are meaningfully engaged in school decision-making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalHealth Promotion International
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Comprehensive School Health
  • health education
  • health promotion
  • school health
  • youth participation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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