Profiles Overview

The School Health Profiles (Profiles) is a system of surveys assessing school health policies and practices in states, large urban school districts, and territories.

What is the School Health Profiles?

Profiles surveys are conducted biennially by education and health agencies among middle and high school principals and lead health education teachers.

Profiles monitors the current status of
  • School health education requirements and content,
  • Physical education and physical activity,
  • Practices related to bullying and sexual harassment,
  • School health policies related to tobacco-use prevention and nutrition,
  • School-based health services,
  • Family engagement and community involvement, and
  • School health coordination.

How is Profiles conducted?

Profiles is conducted among a sample of secondary schools in a state, school district, territory, or tribe. Profiles data are collected from self-administered questionnaires from the principal and the lead health education teacher at each sampled school.

In 2020, 44 states, 28 school districts, 1 territory, and 1 tribe obtained data representative of their jurisdiction. In these sites, data were weighted to represent the population if at least 70% of the principals or lead health education teachers in the sample completed the questionnaire or if nonresponse bias analyses revealed few significant differences between responding and nonresponding schools.

Three states that did not meet either of these criteria did not have their data weighted; unweighted data represent only the schools in which the principals or teachers completed the questionnaire.

  • Across states, the sample sizes of the principal surveys ranged from 49 to 606 and response rates ranged from 35% to 89%.
  • Across school districts, the sample sizes ranged from 12 to 299 and response rates ranged from 74% to 100%.
  • The sample sizes of the lead health education teacher surveys across states ranged from 51 to 605 and response rates ranged from 19% to 83%.
  • Across school districts, the sample sizes ranged from 12 to 291 and the response rates ranged from 67% to 100%.

What kind of data does Profiles provide?

Profiles provides data on the following areas:
  • Sexual health education,
  • Safe and supportive school environments,
  • Sexual health services,
  • Health services for students with chronic conditions,
  • Supportive school nutrition environments, and
  • Comprehensive school physical activity programs.

This data shows the progress in the implementation of school policies and practices to help improve the health of school-aged youth.

Profiles data reflects the percentage of secondary schools in each participating state, large urban school district, or territory that have a particular policy or practice in place.

To summarize these results, CDC calculates a median percentage for each policy or practice.

A median is the value separating the higher half of the distribution of percentages from the lower half. In simple terms, it may be thought of as the “middle” value in the list of percentages. The median across states provides the middle value of all of the state percentages, and the median across districts provides this value among large urban school districts.

Why is Profiles data important and how can it be used?

Profiles data is meant to be used by leaders and decision makers, especially in schools, school districts, and state education agencies to understand the gaps in policies and practices that can impact student health and academic performance.

Identifying gaps in school health policies and practices supports local discussions and decisions about needed changes and monitors those changes over time.

Used with CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance (YRBS) data, Profiles data can provide a powerful approach for decision makers to monitor the impact of their decisions over time.

How can policymakers and community leaders use Profiles data?

School-based surveillance, provided by Profiles, helps monitor health policies and practices and can guide future decision-making. Policymakers and community leaders can use Profiles data to:

  • Promote awareness and bring the community together to address gaps in the health and education needs of students.
  • Develop policies, practices, and programs that protect and support student health and provide needed services.
  • Inform the efforts of coalitions or task forces in local communities coordinating activities to prevent HIV, STDs, and pregnancy among youth.

How are Profiles data used by education agencies and public health partners?

Education and health officials use Profiles data to

  • Describe school health policies and practices and compare them across jurisdictions,
  • Identify professional development needs,
  • Plan and monitor programs,
  • Support health-related policies and legislation,
  • Seek funding, and
  • Garner support for future surveys.

How do states and school districts use their Profiles data?

  • Boston Public Schools has used Profiles results to track implementation of the District Wellness Policy, including health education curriculum delivery, training of teachers, and implementation of their Safe and Supportive Schools Policy. This policy includes availability of gay-straight alliances and safe spaces, availability of health services for sexual minority students, and professional development on bullying.
  • The Delaware Department of Education (DDOE) provides condoms to schools to distribute to students to prevent HIV, STDs and pregnancy. DDOE uses Profiles results to help monitor the percentage of high schools providing access to condoms and other health services.
  • The Maine Department of Education is using School Health Profiles results to inform the revision of their health education and physical education standards.
  • In New York City, the Office of School Wellness Programs staff use Profiles data to inform the design of professional learning opportunities for health and physical education teachers and principals.