Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to navigation Skip directly to page options Skip directly to site content

Coordinated School Health—Key Strategies

Coordinated school health (CSH) is recommended by CDC as an approach for improving students' health and learning in our nation's schools. Research has shown that school health programs can help reduce health risk behaviors among young people and have a positive effect on academic performance. CDC's Division of Adolescent and School Health has launched an expanded CSH website that outlines the rationale and goals for CSH and provides key strategies for schools to follow.

PhotoL School children eating lunch.The Role of Schools in Health Promotion

The health of young people is strongly linked to their academic success, and the academic success of youth is strongly linked with their health. Thus, helping students stay healthy is a fundamental part of the mission of schools. Schools cannot achieve their primary mission of education if students and staff are not healthy.

  • Health-related factors, such as hunger, chronic illness, or physical and emotional abuse, can lead to poor school performance.1
  • Health-risk behaviors such as substance use, violence, and physical inactivity are consistently linked to academic failure and often affect students' school attendance, grades, test scores, and ability to pay attention in class.2-4

The good news is that school health programs and policies may be one of the most efficient means to prevent or reduce risk behaviors and prevent serious health problems among students.5 Effective school health policies and programs may also help close the educational achievement gap.6

Photo: Students in a classroomSchool health programs typically have four overlapping, interdependent goals for improving student health. When coordinated and integrated, the efforts and resources of education, health, and social service agencies can

  1. Improve health knowledge, attitudes, and skills
  2. Improve health behaviors and health outcomes
  3. Improve educational outcomes
  4. Improve social outcomes

What Schools Can Do To Implement Coordinated School Health

To achieve the goals of school health and maximize effectiveness and efficiency, schools should carry out the following eight strategies to implement a coordinated approach to improve school health programs and policies.

  1. Photo: Two younf atheletes.Secure and maintain administrative support and commitment for implementing and maintaining a coordinated and systematic approach to school health.
  2. Establish a school health council or team to guide programming and facilitate collaboration between the school and the community.
  3. Identify a school health coordinator to help maintain active school health councils and facilitate health programming in the district and school and between the school and community.
  4. Develop a plan to achieve health promotion goals.
  5. Implement multiple strategies through school health components that address classroom instruction, policies and procedures, environmental change, health, counseling and nutrition services, parent and community involvement, and social support.
  6. Focus on students—to meet their education and health needs and provide opportunities for them to be meaningfully involved in the school and the community.
  7. Address priority health-enhancing behaviors (e.g., physical activity, healthy eating) and health-risk behaviors (e.g., tobacco use, physical inactivity, unhealthy eating).
  8. Provide professional development for staff that focuses on enhancing leadership, communication, and collaboration skills.

More Information

If a community, district, or school wants to implement a coordinated approach to school health, the following resources can help:


  1. Dunkle MC, Nash MA. Beyond the Health Room. Washington, DC: Council of Chief State School Officers, Resource Center on Educational Equity; 1991.
  2. Dewey JD. Reviewing the relationship between school factors and substance use for elementary, middle, and high school students. Journal of Primary Prevention 1999;19(3):177–225.
  3. Mandell DJ, Hill SL, Carter L, Brandon RN. The impact of substance use and violence/delinquency on academic achievement for groups of middle and high school students in Washington. Seattle, WA: Washington Kids Count, Human Services Policy Center, Evans School of Public Affairs, University of Washington; 2002.
  4. Shephard RJ. Habitual physical activity and academic performance. Nutrition Reviews 1996;54(4 Pt 2):S32–S36.
  5. Kolbe L. Education reform and the goals of modern school health programs. The State Education Standard 2002;3(4):4–11.
  6. Institute of Medicine. Schools and Health: Our Nation’s Investment. Washington, DC: National Academies Press; 1997.