1 December 2023

AUN-HPN’s 8th International Advisory Committee Shared Best Practices and Acknowledged Growing Mental Health Concerns

Patitin Lertnaikiat
AUN Programme Officer;

The ASEAN University Network Health Promotion Network (AUN-HPN) conducted the 8th AUN-HPN International Advisory Committee (IAC) Meeting on 24 November 2023 in Tokyo where the thematic network provided the participants with latest updates forAUN-HPN’s recent developments, accomplishments and ongoing initiatives. 11 International Advisory Committee Member Universities were present during the Meeting included:

  1. Mahidol University, Thailand (Host University)
  2. Ateneo de Manila University, Philippines
  3. Burapha University, Thailand
  4. Chiang Mai University, Thailand
  5. Chulalongkorn University, Thailand
  6. National University of Singapore, Singapore
  7. Prince of Songkla University, Thailand
  8. Universitas Airlangga, Indonesia
  9. Universitas Gadjah Mada, Indonesia
  10. University of the Philippines, Philippines
  11. Vietnam National University (Hanoi), Vietnam

Throughout the meeting, the participants provided updates on their institutions’ efforts toward health promotion implementation. The Thai University Network for Health Promotion Network (TUN-HPN) shared their lessons learned from role models in Thailand. The meeting also acknowledged the rising concerns of mental health issues that students and staff are experiencing in Universities. Mental health issues have become more prominent as more and more people in society have to adapt to the new normals that have been brought upon by the COVID pandemic long after its end.

At this meeting, the participants were also informed of the official launch of "Management and Strategy: How AUN-HPN Became a Driving Force for Regional Health Promotion", a book showcasing the success of AUN-HPN’s growth into a prominent network that it is today in health promotion across ASEAN. 

1. Updates from AUN-HPN

AUN-HPN updated the IAC of their past activities, new associate members, and provided a progress report on the Healthy University Rating System (HURS). During this session, the meeting highlighted the AUN-HPN Joint Symposium “Pathways to Sustainable Universities: Best Practices from AUN-HPN and HURS” being accredited as one of the “Commemorative Event for the 50th Year of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation” by the ASEAN Secretariat and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. Other past activities include:

  1. Actively engaging as one of the committees in the International Health Promoting Universities & Colleges (IHPU&C) Steering Group
  2. Provided progress reports of the AUN-HPN and the implementation of the HURS at the 14th AUN Rectors’ Meeting and the 38th AUN-Board of Trustees Meeting.
  3. Attended the 20th International Network of Health Promotion Foundations (INHPF)
  4. The Thai Universities Network for Health Promotion Network (TUN-HPN) succeeded in having all universities use the Healthy University Framework (HUF) as a guideline on how to be a health university and HURS as a tool to monitor their progress.
  5. AUN-HPN Secretariat Office has been actively involved in the development of the Health Promotion Database, publishing newsletters on a quarterly basis, and maintaining the network’s website to keep our members updated on the latest developments.

In terms of membership, three new associate members has joined the AUN-HPN family, namely:

  1. King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi (KMUTT) joined on 22 June, 2023
  2. Kalasin University (KSU) joined on 1 November, 2023
  3. Suranaree University of Technology (SUT) joined on 1 November, 2023

AUN-HPN then proceeded with the progress report on HURS. For the HURS Evaluation 2023, it began with accepting applications since August of this year and the application period is now closed. Currently, the AUN-HPN Secretariat is undergoing the data verification process which will continue until 15 January, 2024. The results are estimated to be ready by February 2024. 
Apart from the evaluation, Workshop: “Improving Healthy University Implementation based on Healthy University Rating System (HURS)” was organized on 18 August 2023. This workshop served as a platform where esteemed guest speakers from distinguished AUN-HPN member universities which had achieved a 5-star rating in HURS version 2022, generously shared their universities’ experiences and best practices in health promotion.

2. Updates on Health Promotion Implementation from 11 AUN-HPN International Advisory Committees

The members of the AUN-HPN all have their institutions follow the HUF guideline and use HURS as a tool to monitor their progress. The HURS brings attention to three areas of a university: 1.) Systems and Infrastructure, 2.) Zero Tolerance Areas, 3.) Health Promotion Areas.  In this regard, HURS is not only an excellent tool for evaluation, the framework also enables universities to recognize what areas they need to improve in health promotion. Apart from the continued adoption and implementation of this framework, it is also crucial that universities should share the best health promotion practices with one another in a synchronized effort to become healthy institutions. 

3. Lessons Learned from Role Models in Thailand - TUN-HPN

Currently, there have been more than 100 universities that have joined TUN-HPN. As the number grows larger and each university has their own methods of health promotion, it has become clear that universities have to start using HUF in order to understand the thematic network’s common goal in health promotion. This is because if universities do not have a clear understanding of health promotion, they end up doing their own activities that may not be effective. In this regard, the meeting also noted the importance of fostering AUN-HPN’s leadership and clear policies to guide universities to being healthy. Lastly, as the crucial role of universities is to generate knowledge, promote health to society, and initiate activities with their community, it is also important to share this knowledge with other universities so that the best practices can be learned from each other and together we can achieve in promoting healthy lifestyles to all students and staff.

As for the next steps of TUN-HPN, the meeting took note of the 4 steps for AUN-HPN to consider. First, the thematic network is looking towards further expansion of the network in the country and region. Second, TUN-HPN wishes to begin conducting joint research projects between its member universities. Third, implementation of HUF and HURS should be encouraged for the members of TUN-HPN. Fourth and lastly, TUN-HPN is aiming to conduct meetings and national academic conferences as platforms for the subregional network, as well as AUN-HPN members outside of Thailand, to learn and share their strategy and lessons-learned.

4. Topics for Consideration: Mental Health Issues

After the COVID-19 pandemic simmered down, society around the world had to adapt to a new normal where humanity has become more dependent on technology than ever. In the education space, many students and staff around the world had their first experience with online based learning. Effectiveness aside, this led to drastic changes on how humans interacted with each other during the pandemic, with a result of less interaction overall. This increased isolation has led to higher numbers of depressed students which is often the start of mental health spiraling out of control if not dealt with accordingly.

Even as 2023 is coming close to an end, the impact on mental health for students and staff remains  a problem. Most, if not all AUN-HPN member universities have counseling and healthcare services that do cover mental health issues. However, the meeting suggested that AUN-HPN should be campaigning for proactive solutions to this health issue. Many of the IAC member universities currently have activities that aim to lift up the spirits of students and staff, with many of the activities being creative focused such as music and art. As we head into 2024, the mental state of students and staff will continue to be monitored.

In light of the 8th AUN-HPN IAC Meeting’s successful dialogue and conclusion, the AUN Secretariat would like to extend its appreciation to the thematic network’s continued collaborative efforts in addressing arising health issues through promoting and fulfilling the roles of universities as drivers of the society towards a better, healthier future.

Visit AUN-HPN website to learn more about this university thematic network on health promotion: https://aun-hpn.or.th/ 

For latest developments of AUN-HPN and its health promotion mission, please refer to the list below:

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