Schools are the Right Place for a Healthy Start for Adolescents

Why Schools are Important

Key Takeaways

  • School health programs can decrease health risk behaviors improve academic achievement
  • CDC’s school-based programs improve the health and well-being of youth

Schools in the U.S. have direct contact with 56 million students for at least 6 hours a day. Of these, 15 million students would be enrolled in grades 9 through 12. Children go to school during the most important years of their social, physical, and mental growth.1,2,3

The Role of Schools in Adolescent Health

School health programs can decrease how many health risk behaviors occur among youth and also improve academic acheivement.3

During the school day, students can learn the importance of taking actions to live a healthy lifestyle. It is hard to change unhealthy habits as an adult. It is easier to form healthier habits in childhood.4

In therapy, teen boy shares life experiences with group

Schools can play a big role in helping students to practice and maintain healthy behaviors.5

Schools can improve student health and academic performance by:

CDC’s school-based programs improve the health and well-being of youth. CDC works with schools and health groups and others to reduce HIV, STDs, unplanned pregnancy, and other risk health behaviors.

Learn more about the impact of CDC programs >>

School Influence on Adolescents

The nature of school and home can affect health and academic outcomes for students.9,10 When schools work with families, poor health outcomes are reduced in adults.11 The health and wellbeing of young adults is shaped by many distinct groups in life.

Schools, governments, and local groups must work together to have the greatest effect on young adult health. Youth who are safe and nurtured have better outcomes for being healthy and productive members of society.

  1. U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Educations Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics (2020). Fast Facts: Back to school statistics. Washington, D.C.
  2. U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Educations Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics (2020). The Condition of Education: Elementary and Secondary Enrollment. Washington, D.C.
  3. Health-Related Behaviors and Academic Achievement Among High School Students — United States, 2015. Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2017;66:921-927.
  4. Allensworth D, Lewallen TC, Stevenson B, Katz S. Addressing the Needs of the Whole Child: What Public Health Can Do to Answer the Education Sector’s Call for a Stronger Partnership. Preventing Chronic Disease. 2011;8(2):A44.
  5. Joint Committee on National Health Standards. National Health Education Standards: Achieving Excellence (2nd ed). American Cancer Society; 2012.
  6. CDC. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance—United States, 2019MMWR Suppl 2020;69(1):1-83.
  7. Banspach S, Zaza S, Dittus P, Michael S, Brindis CD, Thorpe P. CDC Grand Rounds: Adolescence — Preparing for Lifelong Health and Wellness. Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2016;65:759–762.
  8. Viner RM, Ozer EM, Denny S, Marmot M, Resnick M, Fatusi A, Currie C. Adolescence and the social determinants of health. Lancet. 2012;379(9826):1641–1652.
  9. Hunt, H. (Ed.). (2015). The Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child Model [Special issue]. Journal of School Health, 85(11), 729-823.
  10. Bonell C, Parry W, Wells H, Jamal F, Fletcher A, Harden A, et. al. The effects of the school environment on student health: A systematic review of multi-level studies. Health & Place, 2013;21:180-191.
  11. Steiner RJ, Sheremenko G, Lesesne C, et al. Adolescent Connectedness and Adult Health Outcomes. Pediatrics. 2019;144(1): e20183766.