27 January 2023

3rd AUN International Health Promotion Conference highlighted actions towards Mental Health Issues and Well-being in ASEAN Universities

AUN Writer Team

By Chanya Chinsukserm, AUN Programme Officer

The 3rd AUN International Health Promotion Conference with the theme "Mental Health and Well-being of ASEAN Universities during the Post-COVID-19 Period: Awareness and Actions," was successfully held on 20 January 2023 in Thailand. After a 3-year hiatus during the pandemic, the conference resumed its operation as a platform to discuss, share knowledge, and exchange experiences on the health promoting operations of member universities to create productive inputs for comprehensive strategies and work plan for health promotion universities. This year, the conference was organised back-to-back with the 7th AUN-HPN International Advisory Committee meeting. With the intention of partnering and enhancing health promotion throughout the ASEAN region, both events are scheduled to take place annually. The main focus was revolving around health promotion in ASEAN universities as well as mental health issues in the post COVID-19 period.

Health Promotion in University

The conference started off with Dr. Wiwat Rojanapithayakorn, M.D., Advisor of Executive Director of ASEAN University Network-Health Promotion Network (AUN-HPN), presenting the role of AUN-HPN in promoting effective health promotion policies and practices in collaboration among ASEAN countries. He mentioned noncommunicable diseases, or NCDs, as the primary cause of death worldwide. To overcome such problems, we need a collaborative approach to improving all people’s health by incorporating health considerations into decision-making across sectors, or so-called Health in All Policies. 

Universities can also play a leading role in preventing NCDs by promoting healthy lifestyles and a suitable environment. Dr. Rojanapithayakorn referred to the AUN-HPN Healthy University Framework, which establishes guidelines for health promoting universities in ASEAN, as well as the AUN-HPN itself as a platform to promote health within universities and beyond. He also highlighted the essential components of a healthy university, which are divided into three categories:

  1. Systems and infrastructure
  2. Zero tolerance areas
  3. Health promotion areas

The second keynote speaker, Dr. Suvajee Good, Regional Advisor, Social Determinants of Health and Health Promotion, WHO Regional Office for South-East Asia, put forward the Health Promotion Competencies in the New Era. She specified the unique position of university in forming and instilling social norms, work ethics, and attitudes toward health and well-being. University also has an impact on the formation of citizens' attitudes or mindsets, behavioral patterns, and life priorities. It has the potential to lay a strong foundation for healthy public policies across all disciplines, particularly transdisciplinary knowledge and research. However, university is only one setting. A network of healthy settings will create greater impacts for sustainable actions on the long journey to healthier societies.

The key point of Dr. Good’s presentation is the Healthy Promotion Competencies, which are addressed as a combination of knowledge, attitude, skills, abilities, and behaviors that contribute to individual and organisational performance for better health and well-being. There are eight domains of competencies, namely catalyze change, advocacy, partnership, communication, diagnosis, planning, implementation, evaluation and research. In shaping sustainable health promotion, university can use these steps as laid out in the global framework:

  • adopting health promotion system approach for well-being;
  • develop investments and policy to create conducive environment for health including making healthy choices easier choices and reduce risk exposure;
  • increase health literacy and foster active citizens promoting quality of life and healthy populations;
  • enhance community engagement, inclusion and social capital; and
  • developing health promotion institutional capacity and discipline.

For the third keynote speaker, Prof. Mark Dooris, who is the Professor in Health and Sustainability, University of Central Lancashire, United Kingdom, and Chair of UK Healthy Universities Network, has participated in the conference online and shared with us the topic “Health Promoting Universities: UK & International Insights, Challenges & Opportunities.” He thoroughly outlined the history of global development in health promoting universities. 

He also highlighted his involvement with numerous international network steering groups, particularly the UK Healthy Universities Network, which is under the current chairmanship of Prof. Dooris. The UK Healthy Universities Network offered the mechanism ‘Self Review Tool’ for universities to review and reflect on their progress in embedding a whole system approach to health and well-being into their core business and culture. Prof. Dooris clearly presented his valuable insights into health promoting areas and practices through his experiences and reflected on the challenges and potential opportunities.

Mental Health Issue Countermeasures

Subsequently, distinguished guest speakers from five notable universities were invited to provide perspectives on the protocols and countermeasures for the most pressing issue: mental illness. During the post pandemic period, students' and personnel's lives are exposed to various risk factors that significantly impair mental health. Hence, some of the intriguing aspects of these initiatives will be spotlighted below.

Dr. Panita Suavansri from Chulalongkorn University addressed ‘CU Care’ –the project that provides a psychological counseling service for staff by providing individual counseling, telecounseling, and a hotline. 

Similarly, Asst. Prof. Dr. Jinjutha Chaisena Dallas from Burapa University (BU) depicted the establishment of ‘Puenjai Wai Sai’ –Youth Friendly Health Service Clinic as a center of reproductive and health services for adolescents and young adults. The service staff consists of psychiatrists, counseling psychologists, clinical psychologists, social workers, nurses, and public health professionals, offering four types of counseling: face-to-face, video call, chat, and telephone. In addition, BU’s psychological screening unit offers the following tests to all freshmen, which are available online:

  • Stress test
  • Personality test (16 PF)
  • Professional aptitude test (SDS Form R)
  • Mini-Mental Status Examination (MMSE-2)
  • Concentration test (CARE-College ADHD)
  • Thai Mental Health Questionnaire (TMHQ)
  • Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9)

Chiang Mai University (CMU) also has comparable mechanisms. Asst. Prof. Dr. Chainarong Luengvilai introduced the one-stop service for mental health. CMU’s support system and mechanism development also included mental health screening tests, including budget and resources that benefit mental health services for CMU students and staff. Moreover, there is an instrument called ‘Gate Keeper & Network’ that develops the network of teachers, staff, and peer volunteers covering the field in health promotion, prevention, screening, and follow-up.

Meanwhile, Khun Maung Gyi presented mental health policy and programmes implanted at Yangon University of Economics (YUECO). Each semester, YUECO convenes at least 4-5 sports and activities, such as football, volleyball, Wushus, swimming, Sepaktakraw, chess, Karate, rowing, and shooting. Religious activities such as homage ceremonies and meditation events are included.

Ultimately, Tania Tabassum Nisa from Osaka University presented to us such an interesting topic: Health risk factors assessment among university students in Japan and ASEAN: a campus-based surveillance. Currently, Osaka University has researched upon this particular topic and developed the survey questionnaire in order to estimate the prevalent health risk factors in Japanese and ASEAN university students. This research will be a comparative study among Japan and ASEAN countries that examines what measures can be taken globally to reduce the risk of potential diseases and thus increase healthy life expectancy. If you are interested in being a part of this, you are invited to participate by completing the survey at https://survey.sp.ids.osaka-u.ac.jp/index.php/182822?lang=enScreenshot (188).png

Prof. Mark Dooris quoted the excerpt from the Okanagan Charter for Health Promoting Universities and Colleges, 2015. 

The conference ended with a highlight on the importance of health promotion, as demonstrated in the quote above, with a lot of fruitful and productive knowledge exchange. The next AUN International Health Promotion Conference will be held in 2025 and University of Malaya, Malaysia, will serve as the co-host of the 4th AUN International Health Promotion Conference. 


Dr. Wiwat Rojanapithayakorn presented the role of AUN-HPN in promoting effective health promotion policies and practices in collaboration among ASEAN countries.


Dr. Suvajee Good put forward the Health Promotion Competencies in the New Era.



Distinguished guest speakers from five notable universities were invited to provide perspectives on the protocols and countermeasures for the most pressing issue: mental illness.