School Health Assessments: Frequently Asked Questions

The following is a list of common questions and answers related to school health assessment tools, specifically:

Why complete a school health assessment?
A school health assessment helps to identify strengths and weaknesses of school health policies and programs and provide direction for school health improvement efforts.

What is a school health assessment?
A school health assessment is a systematic collection, review, and analysis of information about school health-related policies and programs for the purpose of improving students’ health and educational outcomes. School health assessments give schools a snapshot in time of programs and policies that address student and staff health. From this picture, the school health council or other health committees can move forward in creating an action plan, monitoring activities, and celebrating successes.

The use of an assessment and action planning process provides a coordinated framework for school improvement and wellness efforts. This structure can help schools avoid duplication, refine purpose, and coordinate various initiatives across the whole school.

Why are there different school health assessments?
Different school health assessments are available to address specific areas of concern in school health and school improvement efforts.

  • The Healthy School Report Card focuses on the development of a high-quality coordinated school health program as an important aspect of a school improvement process.
  • The Healthy Schools Inventory and the School Health Index also use a coordinated approach but focus on best practices that address specific health behaviors or chronic conditions (e.g., nutrition, physical activity, asthma).

Each of these three assessment tools allows users to analyze the comprehensiveness of the policies, programs, and infrastructure in place to address student and staff health. All three tools are useful for internal planning and program improvement. In addition, both the Healthy School Report Card and the Healthy Schools Inventory may be used to collect data for evaluation.

Are there requirements to use a school health assessment?
Yes, in some states and districts. Although the CDC does not require the use of the School Health Index, some states and school districts have policies or program requirements to use the School Health Index. Similarly, some states require portions of the Healthy School Report Card to be completed. All schools funded by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation are required to use the Healthy Schools Inventory for planning, national recognition, and program evaluation. Schools in states or districts with assessment requirements might find it beneficial to add parts of another assessment tool process to enhance their work.

What should I do if I am participating in a program that requires one assessment and the state requires a different one?
You can request help from the three organizations listed in this document. Duplication of effort should be avoided or minimized. Staff from all three organizations can assist schools in meeting both their state requirements and their program requirements.

Can schools complete more than one school health assessment simultaneously?
Yes, but this should only be done if you have state or program requirements that require multiple assessments to be completed. Duplication of effort is something all three organizations would like to avoid. Because all three school health assessments are based on best practices and focus on known youth health risks, many of the assessment items are similar.

For more detailed information on how to coordinate these assessments, contact the three organizations by going to the Web sites listed at the end of this document.

With no state or program requirement, how does a school decide which school health assessment to complete?
It will depend on your needs. Any of these three school health assessments will be helpful in data-driven decision making and action planning.

  • The Healthy Schools Inventory is specifically focused on improving the nutrition and physical activity environment in a school.
  • The School Health Index addresses those topics and additional ones, such as tobacco, asthma, and safety, but schools can select the health topic areas in the School Health Index they would like to address.
  • The Healthy School Report Card focuses on how a school’s infrastructure addresses multiple risks to student health, well-being, and learning.

Can these assessments be used for data in school improvement planning processes at the state or local level?
Yes. The Healthy School Report Card is already aligned with the school’s improvement process. Depending on the content and approach of the school health assessment, there might be ways to use data gathered from any of these tools to create a generalized view of school health systems, programs, and services in a state, district, school, or community. The information can then be used for policy development, planning, and school improvement efforts. State and local stakeholders are encouraged to use other data, such as youth behavior surveys and public health surveillance, to identify which health risks have the greatest impact on students.

How often do assessment questions get updated?
All three school health assessments are reviewed regularly by each organization and by national expert panels. Panelists evaluate questions based on best practices and emerging research on addressing heath behaviors and the school health environment. Evaluations are also conducted to refine and improve the tools.

School Health Assessments At A Glance

Healthy Schools Inventory School Health Index Healthy School Report Card
Content Areas Nutrition, physical activity/physical education through 8 content areas loosely aligned with Coordinated School Health (CSH) Nutrition, physical activity, asthma, safety, and tobacco, structured around the eight-component CSH model.; assessment is customized by users’ selection of topics 11 characteristics of a healthy school and community model that incorporates the eight-component CSH model and effective teaching and learning indicators, based on the development of the whole child
Purpose Assessment and planning; evaluation tool for the Healthy Schools Program Assessment and planning Assessment and planning; compatible with a School Improvement Plan
Cost Free Free $59.00 member
$79.00 nonmember
Available Format Online tool; paper version available Online tool; paper version available PDF and paper version; access to Online Analysis Tool (OAT)
Training On-site technical assistance sessions for selected sites Training manual, free on-site workshops, technical assistance Online resources, trainings, consultancy, and technical assistance
Method of Completion School champion enters information online after consulting with others Team approach Team approach
Action Plan Completed inventory generates an action plan based on local priorities Team creates an action plan based on assessment results using template available. Healthy School Improvement Plan is created automatically once data is entered into OAT; completed Online Analysis Tool generates a Healthy School Improvement Plan
Additional Resources Resource database and technical assistance based on the inventory; national recognition program Resources are linked based on School Health Index items Resources through Web site and partner organizations
Web Site Healthy Schools Inventory School Health Index Healthy School Report Card