Coordinated School Health

Description of a Coordinated School Health Program
A coordinated school health program is an effective system designed to connect health with education. This coordinated approach to school health improves students’ health and their capacity to learn through the support of families, communities and schools.

A model that is commonly used for organizing a quality school health program consists of eight interrelated components (Kolbe and Allensworth, 1987). The components have been adapted as follows for Maine:

·         School Nutrition and Food Services: Food and snacks available at school and at school events that are balanced and nutritious.

·         Physical Education and Physical Activity: Physical education classes that promote physical fitness, motor skills, social and personal interaction and life-long physical activity.

·         Comprehensive School Health Education: Kindergarten through high school health education curriculum that is sequential and developmentally appropriate, and that includes instruction and assessment.

·         School Climate: A school atmosphere supported by programs and policies that nurture positive behavior, assure safety, and promote a feeling of belonging and respect for all students, staff and families.

·         Physical Environment: Safe and aesthetic physical structures, school grounds and transportation.

·         Youth, Parent, Family and Community Involvement: Participation of these groups in policy and program development and integration of community providers with schools.

·         School Counseling, Physical and Behavioral Health Services: Physical health and behavioral health services, including substance abuse services, that meet the needs of all students.

·         Health Promotion and Wellness: Work-site health promotion programs that encourage and support staff in pursuing healthy behaviors and lifestyles.

Rationale for Coordinating School Health Programs
A coordinated approach:

·         Provides a more efficient and effective way to use existing resources to meet the needs of students and staff. Currently funding for school programs is often categorical (issue specific) and programs are fragmented, with many gaps and overlaps.

·         Contributes to the equality of students’ opportunity to learn and to achieve Maine’s Learning Results criteria across school systems.

·         Increases the potential impact of individual components. (Allensworth, 1994).

There is evidence that shows the positive impact of one or more components on student health and learning outcomes. School administrators (McKenzie and Richmond, 1998) also report that coordinating health initiatives results in:

·         Reduced absenteeism

·         Fewer classroom behavior problems

·         Improved academic performance

·         Greater interest in healthy diets

·         Increased participation in fitness activities

·         Delayed onset of certain health risk behaviors

·         Less smoking among students and staff

·         Lower rates of teen pregnancy

It is anticipated that these positive effects on student and staff health will in turn help to achieve the Healthy People 2010 overall goals of:

·         increasing the quality and years of healthy life, and

·         eliminating health disparities (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2000).

Best Practices
Education and health professionals have learned a great deal about "best practices" for promoting healthy schools and students. If this knowledge were broadly applied in schools and communities, the potential impact on health and learning would be substantial. Implementation of best practices would transform our schools and go beyond “tinkering at the margins of the health and educational attainment of our children” (Degraw, 1994).

Experts in school health generally agree that quality programs share the following "elements of excellence:"

·         Administrative support and commitment: School and district administrators view health promotion as an essential part of the education mission of the school and provide public support and resources for the program.

·         A coordinator: A competent and properly prepared professional is designated to coordinate school health program/school health team activities.

·         A collaborative/team approach: A school health advisory group(s) with a common vision meets regularly and has clearly defined roles and established priorities.

·         Strong school/community links: The school builds partnerships with families, community organizations and the community at large; and the school health program links with other health and social service providers and programs in the community to increase access to services.

·         Adequate time and funding: School health activities, the coordinator and school health advisory group(s) are supported by resources and time over multiple years.

·         Professional development: Coordinators and other staff receive training that helps them to work collaboratively across disciplines and with families and community groups.

·         A safe and supportive environment for staff and students: Policies and programs promote clear, high expectations and positive health choices for staff and students; and consistent and reinforcing health-enhancing messages are communicated and modeled by multiple sources (e.g. nutrition education is reinforced by lunchroom offerings).