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 School Health

Overview

Schools play a critical role in promoting healthy behaviors among young people. After the family, schools are the primary institution responsible for adolescent and child development because schools have direct and consistent contact with the vast majority of our nation's young people. School personnel interact with young people up to six hours a day, five days a week for up to 13 years during critical periods of child and adolescent development. When healthy behaviors are established early in life, children and adolescents are more likely to adopt healthy behaviors and avoid unhealthy behaviors during adulthood. If school systems systematically approach school health and take advantage of the unique role they play in adolescents' lives, they can help young people establish lifelong healthy behavior patterns.

Connection Between Health and Academic Success

Research suggests a strong connection between health and academic success. Healthy youth are more likely to regularly attend school and actively participate and learn. The following publications address policies, research, and practice associated with the connection between adolescent and child health and academic success.

Coordinated School Health (CSH)

The CDC recommends schools utilize coordinated school health (CSH) as a strategy for improving child and adolescent health. CSH is accomplished when schools comprehensively and collaboratively approach eight components of school health: (1) health education, (2) physical education, (3) health services, (4) nutrition services, (5) counseling, psychological and social services (6) healthy and safe school environment, (7) health promotion for staff, and (8) family and community involvement. CSH is grounded in four primary, independent goals1:

  1. Increase health knowledge, attitudes, and skills.

  2. Increase positive health behaviors and health outcomes.

  3. Improve education outcomes.

  4. Improve social outcomes.

The CDC indicates states can help support CSH through a variety of mechanisms. State education and health agencies play important roles in establishing state priority actions and policies to support coordinated, systematic approaches to school health at the state and local level. To learn more about how states can support coordinated school health, click here. The following state-based resources also address CSH at the state level:

School-Based Health Centers

School-based health centers (SBHC) are primary care clinics which provide students with basic health services so they can avoid health-related absences. These centers provide a range of health services which typically include primary medical care, mental/behavioral care, dental/oral health care, health education and promotion, substance abuse counseling, case management, and nutrition education. The specific services provided vary by community priorities, needs, and resources as determined by local stakeholders in the community, school district, and local government. SBHCs often operate in partnership with a school and a community health organization such as a local health department.   

Health Education

The National Health Education Standards (NHES) were developed by national health education experts and organizations to establish standards which ensure that health-enhancing behaviors are promoted and supported for students in all grade levels. The NHES provide teachers, school administrators, and policymakers with a framework when selecting and designing health curricula for schools. Utilizing the NHES and the CDC's 14 characteristics of an effective health education curriculum, the CDC developed the Health Education Curriculum Analysis Tool (HECAT) to help school officials conduct comprehensive and concise analysis of health education curricula. The HECAT and tool instructions can be downloaded for free directly from the CDC website.  

Title V and School Health

A recent AMCHP survey revealed State Adolescent Health Coordinators identified close collaboration with their state agency’s Health Department on projects and issues related to adolescent sexual health and school-based sexual health education. Many states identified consultative relationships between the two entities, indicating collaborative planning to review sexual health education curricula, school-based prevention strategies, and training initiatives. Additionally, State Adolescent Health Coordinators discussed streamlined efforts between the agencies to co-develop grant applications, serve on each other’s advisory and stakeholder groups, and manage youth-focused sexual health teams. Coordinators also identified collaborative efforts in youth HIV/STD surveillance and state strategic planning initiatives. 

Key Resources

Supporting Student Health and Academic Achievement through Innovative Programs and Funding Models. California Healthy Students Research Project.

The National Association of State Boards of Education. NASBE Website.

References

  1. Kolbe L. Education reform and the goals of modern school health programs. The State Education Standard 2002;3(4):4-11.