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Adolescent and School Health

Schools: The Right Place for a Healthy Start

Research has shown that school health programs can reduce the prevalence of health risk behaviors among young people and have a positive effect on academic performance. 1-2 Schools also play a critical role in promoting the health and safety of young people and helping them establish lifelong healthy behaviors.

It is easier and more effective to develop healthy behaviors during childhood than trying to change unhealthy behaviors during adulthood. In addition, preventable health risk behaviors are often established during childhood or adolescence and continue into adulthood, contributing to the leading causes of death, disability, and social problems:

  • Unhealthy eating.
  • Inadequate physical activity.
  • Alcohol and other drug use.
  • Tobacco use.
  • Sexual behaviors that can result in HIV infection, other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and unintended pregnancy.
  • Behaviors that contribute to unintentional injury and violence.

In the United States, schools have direct contact with more than 50 million students for at least 6 hours a day during 13 key years of their social, physical, and intellectual development.3

CDC’s Role in School Health

CDC promotes the health and well-being of children and adolescents through schools, enabling them to become healthy and productive adults. CDC supports core school health functions by:

Preventing Chronic Disease Where Young People Learn and Play

CDC Works to:

Key Strategies:

Bringing High-Quality HIV and STD Prevention to Youth in Schools

CDC Works to:

Key Strategies:

  • Using school-based surveillance systems to measure the prevalence of health risk behaviors among adolescents and monitor school health policies and practices to prevent them.
  • Fostering the delivery of high-quality, evidence-based sexual health education.
  • Providing scientific guidance on effective policies and programs to prevent HIV, STDs, and teen pregnancy.
  • Increasing youth access to sexual health services, including contraceptives and HIV and STD counseling, testing, and treatment.
  • Establishing healthy school environments where all youth feel safe and supported, including LGBTQ adolescents and others at disproportionate risk for HIV and other STDs.
  • Helping children and adolescents become more resilient by promoting factors that can protect them from risks, such as effective parenting and strong family and school connections.

Working Together to Improve the Health of Children and Adolescents

Collaboration between schools and health and education agencies, community agencies and organizations, and national partners is important in improving the health and well-being of young people where they live, learn, and play.


  1. Basch CE. Healthier Students Are Better Learners: A Missing Link in School Reforms to Close the Achievement Gap. Equity Matters: Research Review No. 6. New York: Columbia University; 2010.
  2. CDC. The Association Between School-Based Physical Activity, Including Physical Education, and Academic Performance. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2010.
  3. Hussar, W.J., and Bailey, T.M. (2013). Projections of Education Statistics to 2021 (NCES 2013-008). U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.



Contact Us:
  • Adolescent and School Health
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    4770 Buford Hwy, NE
    MS K-29
    Atlanta, GA 30341
  • 800-CDC-INFO
    TTY: (888) 232-6348
  • Contact CDC-INFO The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention   1600 Clifton Road Atlanta, GA 30329-4027, USA
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