School health programmes have been demonstrated to be the most cost-effective way to influence health behaviours in young people (1–4). The purpose of this two-part handbook is to
support schools as they seek to implement interventions aimed at reducing the main modifiable risk behaviours for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) (5,6). The background provided in this
Introduction handbook and the approaches and advice outlined in the Practical application handbook focuses on providing young people with the knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and life
skills necessary for making informed decisions, and creating a healthy school environment that can reduce the risk of NCDs (7).
In essence, the over-arching key messages of the handbook are as follows:
• NCDs are a global health concern, with more than 36 million people worldwide dying from NCDs each year.
• Most NCD-related deaths are preventable.
• The primary and secondary school education system is a prime location for NCD prevention given that a large portion of a child’s day is spent in these settings.
• Life skills learning at school creates an opportunity to introduce key components of a healthy lifestyle to young people from an early age.
• Comprehensive school-based physical activity programmes should be implemented to provide numerous opportunities for physical activity, such as structured physical education classes, physical activity breaks, and ‘walk/bicycle to school’ initiatives.
• Schools provide students with opportunities to consume an array of foods and beverages throughout the day and should, therefore, provide nutritious food choice options, allowing students to learn about and practice healthy eating behaviours.
• Schools can also encourage family involvement and support in leading a healthy lifestyle, as an individual’s lifestyle behaviours are likely to mirror those of the people they live and/or closely