Bright Spot: School Health and Wellness Program
Photo by Santi Vedrí on Unsplash
This bright spot was originally published in the 100 Million Healthier Lives Change Library and is brought to you through partnership with 100 Million Healthier Lives and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.
Since 2011, Maricopa County Department of Public Health (MCDPH) has been implementing the School Health and Wellness Program. This program assists schools in addressing coordinated school health as a strategy to reducing the burden of chronic disease in Maricopa County, AZ.
The strategy is to increase the number of county schools completing the School Health Index, a comprehensive health and wellness self-assessment developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and implementing a School Health Improvement Plan. We help participating schools identify school-based policy, systems and environmental changes and encourage sustainable activities to address health and wellness through their action plans ways that help them meet the needs of their student population and community in one or more of eight focus areas outlined in the coordinated school health model:
- School health policies and environment
- Health education
- Physical education and physical activity
- Nutrition services
- School health services
- School counseling, psychological and social services
- Health promotion for staff
- Family and community involvement
The School Health and Wellness Program is a two year program. During the first year, participating schools elect a school coordinator to lead the program and complete the CDC School Health Index, or SHI. MCDPH prevention specialists provide an orientation to the school coordinator. The school coordinator - often a physical education teacher or school counselor - convenes their School Health Advisory Committee, or SHAC. The SHAC works together to complete the self-assessment and develop action plans to improve school health and wellness policies and practices. Upon the successful completion of the SHI, schools are eligible to begin the School Health Improvement Plan (SHIP) during the second year. During the second year, school coordinators reconvene the School Health Advisory Committee and implement the activities created by the action plan. MCDPH prevention specialists provide essential technical assistance and linkages to other public health programs and resources, but the action plans are driven by the schools' self-assessment, priorities, and feasibility.
The overall objective is to improve wellness within school environments using the CDC Coordinated School Health Framework, including school wellness policies, parent community involvement, staff wellness, health education and health services. After completing the School Health Index, schools will have (1) completed their self-assessment; and (2) developed and implemented an action plan to improve their performance in one or more areas, leading to healthier children, healthier schools, and healthier communities.
Key Lessons Learned
We are looking to be more purposeful with data collection in order to document best practices for administering the SHI and gathering success stories. We are piloting a district-wide SHI and are trying to be more intentional in working with schools who are not repeat partners with us and expanding to more underserved areas.
Currently schools are awarded $4,500 over two years. Additional costs include printing of materials.
Key Steps for Implementation
- Assessment and Creation of Action Plans Outreach and recruitment of SHI schools through networks and partnerships.
- Schedule an orientation for school coordinators. Orientations may be provided on a one-on-one basis or in small groups, depending on whether the district has multiple school sites participating.
- Provide an orientation to introduce the CDC School Health Index, explain program requirements, and plan to organize a multi-disciplinary School Health Advisory Committee to complete the SHI modules.
- School coordinators recruit SHAC membership, hold an initial meeting to plan for completion of the modules, complete the modules, and develop an action plan.
- Follow up with participating schools on a monthly basis to ensure timely completion of modules and action plans and to provide technical assistance.
- Upon successful completion of the action plan, schools are invited to participate in the implementation portion of the program Implementation of School Health Improvement Plans (SHIPs) Schedule an orientation for school coordinators to reintroduce the CDC School Health Index, plan to reconvene the SHAC, and prepare to implement action plan activities.
- The prevention specialist should print a copy of the submitted action plan for the school coordinator. School coordinators reconvene SHAC, review the action plan, make changes as necessary, and complete an implementation timeline for approval by MCDPH prevention specialists. MCDPH prevention specialists approve the implementation timeline.School site coordinators and SHACs implement their action plans.
- Follow up with participating schools on a monthly basis to provide support, connections and technical assistance.
The current format for the School Health and Wellness Program is 2 years, the first for completion of the SHI and the second to implement the action plan (School Health Improvement Plan or SHIP). Some schools continue to participate in the SHI/SHIP after year two is completed, and we are considering offering mini-grants to successful SHIP schools for action plan implementation.Recruitment can be a challenge within some school districts, as schools are wary of assessments and perceive participation in the program as an additional burden.
Individual/family schools or districts (charter, public, and private)
Required Staffing (FTEs)
Depends on number of school partners, Maricopa County uses 3 FTEs for a jurisdiction serving 4 million residents
Currently funded via state public health funds. This can be funded through general funds or grant specific funds that focus on community engagement and education.
Computer, projector, pen and paper
Must have a strong public health background, strong facilitation skills, knowledge of coordinated school health models such as the Whole School, Who community, Whole Child model, familiarity with Maricopa county demographics, communities, etc., and familiarity with the unique challenges of working in local education agencies. It also helps to have an understanding of school based data (student demographics, health data, financial/resources challenges, language, and cultural identity), and community based data (demographics, health data, financial/resources challenges, language, and cultural identity). This data helps to have a broad view of the community makeup and potential needs/issues that will impact families and children. This helps relate concepts in the assessment in a way that will resonate and help participating schools process the information much easier. It also helps to identify resources and services that serve the local community that could support priority focus areas identified by participating schools.
Types of Staff
Health Educator, Program Coordinators, Interns.
- Number of schools achieving the intended goal set forth in the Action Plan that they develop.
- When applicable, change in employee or student behaviors (e.g. more consumption of fruits and vegetables at school cafeteria)
- Number of schools committing to develop a School Health Advisory Council and complete the School Health Index
- Number of school coordinators trained to complete the School Health Index
- Number of schools completing one or more modules in the School Health Index
- Number of schools completing all 8 modules in the school health index
- Number of schools completing a school health improvement plan
- Number of schools implementing their school health improvement plans