Why Schools?

The healthy development of children and adolescents is influenced by many societal institutions. After the family, the school is the primary institution responsible for the development of young people in the United States.

  • Schools have direct contact with more than 95 percent of our nation’s young people aged 5–17 years, for about 6 hours a day, and for up to 13 critical years of their social, psychological, physical, and intellectual development.
  • Schools play an important role in improving students’ health and social outcomes, as well as promoting academic success.

Why School Health?

The health of young people is strongly linked to their academic success, and the academic success of youth is strongly linked with their health. Thus, helping students stay healthy is a fundamental part of the mission of schools. After all, schools cannot achieve their primary mission of education if students and staff are not healthy.

  • Health-related factors, such as hunger, chronic illness, or physical and emotional abuse, can lead to poor school performance.1
  • Health-risk behaviors such as substance use, violence, and physical inactivity are consistently linked to academic failure and often affect students’ school attendance, grades, test scores, and ability to pay attention in class.2-4

The good news is that school health programs and policies may be one of the most efficient means to prevent or reduce risk behaviors and prevent serious health problems among students.5 Effective school health policies and programs may also help close the educational achievement gap.6

Why Coordinated School Health?

School health programs and policies in the United States have resulted, in large part, from a wide variety of federal, state and local mandates, regulations, initiatives, and funding streams. The result, in many schools, is a “patchwork” of policies and programs with differing standards, requirements, and populations to be served. In addition, the professionals who oversee the different pieces of the patchwork come from multiple disciplines: education, nursing, social work, psychology, nutrition, and school administration, each bringing specialized expertise, training, and approaches.

Coordinating the many parts of school health into a systematic approach can enable schools to

  • Eliminate gaps and reduce redundancies across the many initiatives and funding streams
  • Build partnerships and teamwork among school health and education professionals in the school
  • Build collaboration and enhance communication among public health, school health, and other education and health professionals in the community
  • Focus efforts on helping students engage in protective, health-enhancing behaviors and avoid risk behaviors

Eval handout 1EVAL HANDOUT 2

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