Environments & Ecosystems

Catalyzing health-enabling environment strategies – Multiple Dimensions

A person is not an island, and concern for improving mental health / reducing the impact of stress and mental illness will require attention to a student’s ecosystem. A [person’s ‘ecosystem’] {1.1.3.4 ecology} are the places they live, work, play, study and worship. In other words, a person’s ecosystem is their family, their circle of friends, but also the nature of their housing, their community, the post-secondary campus layout and buildings, workplaces as well as places of worship and recreation.

A detailed toolkit for this segment is beyond the scope of this toolkit, so this overview is provided as a place-holder. Members of the Community of Practice will upload helpful tools as they are developed.

This Health-enabling environments working tool may be helpful in tracking all the elements you have included in a particular initiative, and whether all are covered in your overall comprehensive strategy.

[PDF version of Health-Enabling environments working tool] {PDF XXXX}

This involves assessing the multiple dimensions of environment:

  • Sociocultural environment – including equity, culture, social norms including stigmas of ‘other’ including lack of independence (including students with multiple dimensions identified through an intersectional lens)
  • Built environment (houses, roads, buildings, classrooms, etc. ) including alignment with cultural diversity of student body, and impact on the emotional experience of persons in those buildings. For example, some architects attend to the impact of the built environment on loneliness
  • Informational and digital environment (media, social media, diverse information resources)
  • Organizational environments (this includes the health-enabling or health-draining characteristics of organizations’ core operational model. In post-secondary institutions it speaks to the level of stressors established by the way the institution operationalizes the processes of registering, attending classes, demonstrating knowledge gained and retained, withdrawing for various reasons and re-engaging with a program of study etc. This includes the ways that the larger advanced education system operates – including student finance, student housing etc. (i.e. the term ‘organization’ is appropriate for multiple aggregates – an individual faculty or department, the institution as a whole, a Regional Hub, the larger advanced education system etc.)
  • Natural environment (all dimensions – land, water, air, plants and animals, climate)

These dimensions of environment will be seen at different levels of granularity, depending on the ‘zoom’ view that is used to capture the scope of interest.

  • A person’s micro-environment includes their personal relationships, work unit or program of study, socio-cultural characteristics, housing, information sources etc. can be described in detail.
  • Their meso-environment – their neighbourhood and wider community (geographic and communities of interest), post-secondary institution etc.
  • Their macro-environment – the province, nation and world environment provide more diffuse influences.
  • Societal Governance- the way people in a society make collective decisions – will also be a part of the environment and incorporated within sociocultural environment and organizational environment, depending on the ‘zoom’ level of the strategy.

The question is whether these environments are ‘health-enabling’ or ‘health-draining’. Note this is not a desire to remove all stressors – some stress is critical to health.