Campus Life

University of Lethbridge one of six Canadian universities to partner on groundbreaking health promotion initiative

Canadian universities are leading an international effort to create campuses that will improve the health and well-being of students, faculty and staff.

The University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, the University of Lethbridge, Memorial University, Mount Royal University and the University of Calgary are the first universities to formally adopt the Okanagan Charter: An International Charter for Health Promoting Universities and Colleges. The charter calls on post-secondary institutions to make a commitment to health and well-being in all policies and practices.

University presidents (from left) are Gary Kachanoski (Memorial), Santa Ono (UBC), Elizabeth Cannon (Calgary), David Docherty (Mount Royal), Andrew Petter (SFU), Mike Mahon (Lethbridge). Mike Pinder Photography

“The Okanagan Charter places well-being at the forefront of our everyday operations and practices and I encourage other Canadian colleges and universities to consider how they can activate the charter,” says SFU President Andrew Petter.

UBC and SFU led the development of the charter with international partners from post-secondary institutions, the Pan American Health Organization and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The six Canadian universities adopted the charter to inspire other institutions to follow suit, recognizing that universities and colleges can set an example as communities that promote health.

“The health and well-being of our faculty, staff and students is central to everything we do here at the University,” says U of L President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Mike Mahon. “It is a key element of our Strategic Plan and what lies at the heart of our People Plan. In order for our people to thrive both here on campus and at home in their communities, it’s imperative we provide a healthy and supportive campus environment.”

Research shows that health and well-being are essential to learning, retention, productivity, satisfaction and building a sense of community. Universities and colleges are in a unique position to promote well-being through education, research, policies and practices that can be developed on campuses. The Okanagan Charter provides a common framework for universities and colleges to lead this important charge.

The newly-formed Canadian Health Promoting Universities and Colleges Network, headed by these first university signatories, is working to advance the charter and encourage health promotion on campuses across Canada and globally.

Each institution has made individual commitments to enacting the Okanagan Charter on their campuses in different ways – from campus-wide mental health strategies, to developing campus spaces that support connection and community.

At the U of L, a number of initiatives have been undertaken, including mental health and resilience programming, food and nutrition directives, inclusion, connectivity and the enhancement of both learning and working environments. The People Plan, established over a three-year period, was finalized a year ago and creates a unique institutional framework that supports faculty and staff in establishing an enriched campus experience.

“It’s extremely important for us to maintain an environment that is diverse, welcoming and supportive,” says Mahon. “The People Plan demonstrates how the University is committed to creating a positive work environment where people want to work, educate, learn, conduct research and engage in creative activity.”

More information about the Okanagan Charter can be found here:


The Okanagan Charter was an outcome of the 2015 International Conference on Health Promoting Universities and Colleges held at UBC Okanagan in Kelowna, from June 22-25.

A charter working group with members from the UK, Chile, Ecuador, Germany, United States and Canada used an intensive development process to engage people interested in higher education from 45 countries.

Higher education leaders and delegates, including network and organization representatives, signed a pledge to bring the charter back to their settings to inspire and catalyze further action towards the creation of health promoting universities and colleges. Representatives from the World Health Organization, Pan American Health Organization, UNESCO joined in the pledge.