State Empowers Schools to Create Healthier Environments
More than 38,000 students in seven Arizona counties benefit from wellness standards modeled after the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) framework.


Happy elementary school girl with healthy food in cafeteria

The Empower Schools pilot project, a collaboration of the Arizona Department of Health Services (AZDHS) and the Arizona Department of Education (ADE), brought together stakeholders from the school districts, nongovernmental organizations, and county health departments to ensure that all aspects of school health environments were being addressed.

Empower Schools began in 2010 with an AZDHS model used to support early child care facilities. Using aspects of that model, as well as the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) model, AZDHS and ADE designed a model for Arizona school districts to ensure alignment with guidelines from the US Department of Agriculture local school health and wellness policies.


With nine school districts in seven counties reaching over 38,000 students (about 3% of the public school population in Arizona), the Empower Schools pilot program could provide a platform for future effective school health programs. Empower Schools is using 10 wellness standards modeled on WSCC to develop a comprehensive Empower Schools Guidebook and Menu of Options for participating school districts. The Guidebook provides a flexible framework for school districts to meet their unique challenges. The Menu of Options provides school districts with a network of over 30 community support resources, but also allows for flexibility at the school district level to choose the most useful resources.

This program was supported by CDC’s State Public Health Actions to Prevent and Control Diabetes, Heart Disease, Obesity, and Associated Risk Factors and Promote School Health cooperative agreement (DP13-1305).