Using the School Health Index (SHI)

There is no single way to implement the SHI. Schools have developed many approaches, and you need to find the approach that meets your school’s needs.

The most essential thing to remember is that completing the SHI should be a group effort. The strength of the process comes from having individuals from different parts of the school community sit down together and plan ways to work toward improving school policies and programs. The connections that develop among SHI participants are among the most important outcomes of the process.

Methods of Using the SHI

Several methods are available for using the SHI. All the methods are equally effective and you need to decide which one is best for your school.

Online: This method is interactive and customizable. You can select the topics you want to include in your SHI and invite your team members to log in and participate. Learn more at SHI Online.

Download Print Version to print from the Web.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Habits and practices related to health and safety are influenced by the entire school environment. That’s why the SHI has 11 different modules that correspond to the components of the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child model. Be sure to review these modules before starting the process of completing your SHI:

  1. School Health and Safety Policies and Environment
  2. Health Education
  3. Physical Education and Physical Activity Programs
  4. Nutrition Environment and Services
  5. School Health Services
  6. School Counseling, Psychological, and Social Services
  7. Social and Emotional Climate
  8. Physical Environment
  9. Employee Wellness and Health Promotion
  10. Family Engagement
  11. Community Involvement

Your first step is to identify a team of people who will be responsible for completing the SHI. You may choose to create a new team; use an existing team, such as the school health council; or create a new subcommittee of the school management council. Broad and diverse participation is important for meaningful assessment and successful planning and implementation.

Below are key people who you may want to invite to join the SHI team:

School Community

  • Principal, assistant principal.
  • Physical education teacher.
  • Health education teacher.
  • Recess monitor.
  • Athletic coach.
  • Classroom teacher.
  • Student.
  • School nutrition services manager.
  • School counselor.
  • School psychologist or social worker.
  • School nurse.
  • School security personnel.
  • Bus driver.
  • Janitor or custodial worker.
  • Facility and maintenance staff.

Local Community

  • Parent or other family member.
  • Community-based health care and social services provider.
  • Community health organization representative, e.g., American Cancer Society.
  • Local health department staff member.

Getting support for using the SHI from school administrators greatly improves overall commitment to completing the SHI and implementing the School Health Improvement Plan. School and district-level administrators can give the SHI team the power to implement identified changes.

The identity of the SHI coordinator varies from school to school. Many schools have found that it is best to have someone from outside the school facilitate the SHI process. This person might be, for example, a retired health educator, a community-based dietitian, a professor at a local university, a graduate student, or a volunteer at a community-based health organization. Because they are removed from school politics, these individuals are neutral and can help the staff deal with internal conflicts. A SHI coordinator should be:

  • A skilled group facilitator who can keep meeting participants on task while making them feel good about their participation.
  • An excellent listener who does not attempt to impose his or her own opinions on the group.
  • An individual who is highly respected by all participants and by the school administration.
  • Explain the SHI and its purposes to the team. Use the SHI resources to help plan this meeting.
  • Encourage team members to answer all questions as accurately as possible. Make sure they understand that results will not be used for punishing schools or comparing your school to other schools.
  • Ensure that all team members understand the importance of healthy behaviors for young people. Team members should understand that their work on the SHI can make a great difference in the lives of your school’s students.
  • Emphasize to the team that the purpose of the SHI is not to find out whether your school is “passing” or “failing” or to compare your school with others. Rather, the purpose of the SHI is to help the school identify the strengths and weaknesses of its health and safety policies and programs and develop a plan for improvement.

Decide whether you want to participate using the online version or the paper version.

If you decide you want to complete the SHI online, create an account and a SHI for your team. After creating the account, distribute the login information to the team members. Members of your team can log into the system at any time by using the account information to answer the discussion questions assigned to them or to perform other tasks.

Decide how you want to complete the SHI self-assessment process.

  • Some schools have their entire SHI team stay together to do the entire self-assessment, sometimes in just one meeting.
  • Others form sub-teams of two or more people to work on each of the 11 modules. It is very important to have at least two people work on each module because having more than one person involved will increase accuracy and elicit a variety of creative insights for improving school policies and programs.

Answer the discussion questions.

Read through the questions carefully and select the answer that best describes your school. If a question does not apply to your school, you can designate it as not applicable. If you are not sure or need more information before you can answer the question, you can skip the question and return to it at another time. You do not have to answer all the questions in a module.

  • Collect the Score Cards for each module, and transfer the scores to the Overall Score Card (located in the Planning for Improvement section).
  • Make copies of the completed Overall Score Card for every SHI team member.

Meet again with the team and do the following:

  • Review the Score Cards for each module.
  • Discuss the identified strengths and weaknesses.
  • Discuss the recommended actions in each module.
  • Review the overall Score Card.
  • Have all participants work together to identify the top priority actions for the entire school.
  • Complete the School Health Improvement Plan. This involves setting 3 to 5 priority actions, discussing the resources needed, discussing the action steps, assigning responsibilities, setting timelines for the actions, and deciding how to present the plan to the school leadership and community.
  • Discuss how you will monitor progress and when the team will meet again.
  • Use the SHI resources to help plan this second meeting.