How Schools Can 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 policies and programs.
- Secure and maintain administrative support and commitment.
The superintendent’s support at the district level and the principal’s support at the school level are essential for implementing and maintaining a coordinated and systematic approach to school health. School administrators can support a coordinated approach to school health by
- Incorporating health in the district’s or school’s vision and mission statements, including health goals in the school’s improvement plan
- Appointing someone to oversee school health
- Allocating resources
- Modeling healthy behaviors
- Regularly communicating the importance of wellness to students, staff, and parents
- Establish a school health council or team.
An effective school health system uses a team approach to guide programming and facilitate collaboration between the school and the community. At the district level, this group is typically called a school health council, and at the school level, it is typically called a school health team.
Ideally, the district school health council includes at least one representative from each of the eight components, and school administrators, parents, students, and community representatives involved in the health and well-being of students, such as a representative from the local health department and the school district’s medical consultant.
School health teams generally include a site administrator, an identified school health leader, teachers and other staff representing the components, parents, students, and community representatives when appropriate.
- Identify a school health coordinator.
A full-time or part-time school health coordinator is a critical factor for the successful implementation of a coordinated approach to school health. The school health coordinator helps maintain active school health councils and facilitate health programming in the district and school and between the school and community. The coordinator organizes the eight components of school health and facilitates actions to achieve a successful, coordinated school health system, including policies, programs, activities, and resources.
- Develop a plan.
A school health council or team should use a program planning process to achieve health promotion goals. The process, which should involve all stakeholders, includes
- Defining priorities based on the students’ unique health needs
- Determining what resources are available
- Developing an action plan based on realistic goals and measurable objectives
- Establishing a timeline for implementation
- Evaluating whether the goals and
objectives are met
- Implement multiple strategies through multiple components.
Each school health component employs a unique set of strategies. These strategies include classroom instruction, policies and procedures, environmental change, health, counseling and nutrition services, parent and community involvement, and social support. However, no single strategy or single component will achieve all the desired health outcomes for all students. Therefore, it is necessary to implement all of the components so the full range of strategies becomes available to systematically address health behaviors and improve student learning.
- Focus on students.
The focus of coordinated school health should be on meeting the education and health needs of students as well as providing opportunities for students to be meaningfully involved in the school and the community. School health efforts should give young people the chance to exercise leadership, build skills, form relationships with caring adults, and contribute to their school and community.
Students can promote a healthy and safe school and community through peer education, peer advocacy, cross-age mentoring, service learning, and participation on school health teams advisory committees, councils, and boards that address health, education, and youth issues. Protective factors that are health enhancing in schools include
- A supportive and nurturing environment that fosters respect, connectedness, and meaningful involvement
- Adults modeling positive social interactions and having the same expectations of students
- Group norms that value a healthy lifestyle
- Address priority health-enhancing and health-risk behaviors.
Schools can implement policies and programs to help students avoid or reduce health risk behaviors that contribute to the leading causes of death and disability among young people as well as among adults. In the United States, six categories of priority health-risk behaviors are related to the leading causes of death and disability: behaviors that contribute to unintentional injuries and violence; tobacco use; alcohol and other drug use; sexual behaviors that contribute to unintended pregnancy and STDs, including HIV infection; unhealthy eating; and physical inactivity.
Schools can assess health-risk behaviors among young people in these categories as well as general health status, overweight, and asthma, through formal surveys such as the Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Programs that reduce these risk behaviors and promote protective factors have been identified through research and when appropriate be incorporated into school programming (see Registries of Effective Programs). CDC has developed guidelines to help schools promote physical activity and healthy eating and build a systematic and coordinated approach to school health.
- Provide professional development for staff.
Continuing education is essential for teachers, administrators, and other school employees committed to improving the health, academic success, and well-being of students. All school employees need to stay current in their skills and knowledge. Professional development provides opportunities for school employees to identify areas for improvement, learn about and use proven practices, solve problems, develop skills, and reflect on and practice new strategies. In districts and schools promoting a coordinated school health approach, professional development should focus on the development of leadership, communication, and collaboration skills. CDC recommends six key professional development practices.