Superintendents' Perceptions of Schoolsite Health Promotion in Missouri

Article excerpt

Elementary and secondary schools constitute the workplace for nearly one-fifth of the United States' population.[1] The workplace, particularly the schoolsite, provides an ideal setting for health promotion programs. Fitness facilities, food service personnel, nurse and counseling staff, and health and physical education staff are built-in advantages.[2] Benefits of health promotion programs to school staff include increased energy levels, elevated productivity, improved morale, decreased absenteeism, and reduced burnout.[3] An in-house, volunteer team approach following the public health model and American School Health Association recommendations is used most commonly.[1,4,5] In most cases, schoolsite health promotion teams of faculty and staff develop programs to address employee health education and promotion.[6] More than half of all states conduct schoolsite health promotion training conferences to support school district teams in creating their programs.[7]

The health status of school employees mirrors that of the American public. One of every six teachers has high blood pressure, one of every two is obese, and one of every 10 has a substance abuse problem.[8] Teachers also struggle with mental health concerns. Increased class size, increased classroom violence, drug abuse, and high stress are huge contributors to school staff's poor health and burnout.[9]

Schoolsite health promotion, a key aspect of a comprehensive school health program,[10] can help address these concerns. In Missouri, a 1990 report from the state's Coordinating Council for Health Education defined comprehensive school health programs and recommended that Missouri initiate such programs. Responding to that report, state-level health and education agencies met to develop a strategic plan to demonstrate commitment to institutionalizing comprehensive school health programs. The Missouri Coalition for Comprehensive School Health, a non-funded voluntary organization, was formed to advocate for high quality comprehensive school health programs and to focus on all of the eight components, including faculty and staff health promotion.[11]

SURVEY BACKGROUND

Despite its proven benefits and the inception of comprehensive school health programs in the state, many school districts still do not offer schoolsite health promotion for faculty and staff. This survey assessed Missouri school district superintendents' perceptions of schoolsite health promotion in the state using a telephone survey method. The superintendent, concerned with coordination of district programs, is responsible for decision-making at the institutional level, pertaining to activities of the entire school system.[12] The following questions were addressed by the study:

1) What schoolsite health promotion programs currently are offered for Missouri school districts' faculty and staff?

2) Of those school districts offering schoolsite health promotion programs, what is the quality of programs as perceived by superintendents?

3) For school districts not offering schoolsite health promotion programs, what is the necessity as perceived by superintendents?

4) Does a difference exist in superintendents' quality ratings for school districts offering schoolsite health promotion programs by school size, location, accreditation classification, and assessed valuation of the school district?

5) How does the number of schoolsite health promotion programs offered as perceived by superintendents differ by accreditation classification, location, assessed valuation, and school size?

SURVEY METHODS

Sample

School district superintendents were selected randomly from the 1995-1996 Missouri School Directory. A proportional stratified random sampling method was used. School districts were divided into strata according to accreditation classification (AAA or AA) for better representation. …