​​​​Ensuring that children are healthy and able to learn is an essential component of an effective education system. This is especially relevant to efforts to achieve education for all in the most deprived areas. Increased enrolment and reduced absenteeism and drop-out bring more of the poorest and most disadvantaged children to school, many of whom are girls. It is these children who are often the least healthy and most malnourished, who have the most to gain educationally  from improved health.  

Effective school health programmes that are developed as part of community partnerships provide one of the most cost-effective ways to reach adolescents and the broader community and are a sustainable means of promoting healthy practices. 

Improving the health and learning of school children through school-based health and nutrition programmes is not a new concept.  Many countries have school health programmes, and many agencies have decades of experience.  These common experiences suggest an opportunity for concerted action by a partnership of agencies to broaden the scope of school health programmes and make them more effective. Effective school health programmes will contribute to the development of child-friendly schools and thus to the promotion of education for all.

This interagency initiative has identified a core group of activities, each already recommended by the participating agencies, that captures the best practices from programme experiences.  Focusing initially on these activities will allow concerted action by the participating agencies, and will ensure consistent advice to country programmes and projects.  Because of the focused and collaborative nature of this approach, it will increase the number of countries able to implement school health components of child-friendly school reforms, and help ensure that these programmes go to scale.  The focused actions are seen as a starting point to which other interventions may be added, as appropriate.

The actions also contribute to existing agency initiatives.  They are an essential component of the “health promoting schools” initiative of WHO​ and of global efforts by UNICEF, UNESCO and the World Bank​ to make schools effective as well as healthy, hygienic and safe.  Overall, the inter-agency action is perceived as Focusing Resources on Effective School Health, and giving a FRESH Start to improving the quality and equity of education.