Academic journal article Journal of School Health

Implementing Comprehensive School Health Programs: Prospects for Change in American Schools

Academic journal article Journal of School Health

Implementing Comprehensive School Health Programs: Prospects for Change in American Schools

Article excerpt

Participants in The National Invitational Conference on Comprehensive School Health Programs left Atlanta feeling that the immediate future of school health education in this country is both challenging and filled with promise. In this final paper, written some weeks after the conference, we bring together the numerous threads of discussion that took place in Atlanta bearing on future prospects for implementing comprehensive approaches to school health programs in American schools.

The ideas summarized in this paper are important because they figured so significantly in this national meeting of representatives from the most prominent health and education organizations in the U.S. As such, the ideas represent a "state-of-the-art" profile of policy-oriented perspectives in the field of health education and school health programs. Some issues generated high consensus, while others produced disagreement. But, taken as a whole, the Carter Center discussions in the summer of 1989 clearly substantiated the need for comprehensive approaches to school health program development, the feasibility of certain program development strategies, and the potential for success of these initiatives when properly executed in community settings.



Like all instrumental public service agencies, school systems are sensitive to any change or expansion of their basic mission or responsibility, with or without provision of additional resources. Every service-providing institution is interested in the clearest possible definition of its mission and guards against forces seeking to expand its scope of services and expected outcomes beyond its capacity to deliver. Schools are no different. They have felt assaulted, blamed, and criticized so much over the past 15 years that it is understandable to anticipate some resistance to an expanded set of expectations regarding educating students in the area of health, or in providing direct health services.

There is, however, a growing appreciation of many important social and health goals and objectives among school administrators or teachers. However, limits exist in how far schools can go in assuming these responsibilities. Some authorities maintain that schools constitute the single most important social institution available for addressing the need for health education and health service goals for America's youth. Allensworth and Kolbe [1] maintain that "(s)chools could do more perhaps than any other single agency in society to hep young people, and the adults they will become, to live healthier, longer, more satisfying, and more productive lives." To illustrate the important role schools may play, Michael McGinnis, MD, Deputy Assistant Secretary, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services and Director, U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, wrote. [2]

What is very clear is that education and health for children are inextricably intertwined. A student who is not healthy, who suffers from an undetected vision or hearing defect, or who is hungry, or who is impaired by drugs or alcohol, is not a student who will profit from the educational process. Likewise, an individual who has not been provided assistance in the shaping of healthy attitudes, beliefs, and habits early in life, will be more likely to suffer the consequences of reduced productivity in later years.

Yet, conference participants acknowledged the difficulty historically associated with attempts to place education (and other issues associated with it) on the public agenda. When education assumes broad national important, the recognition often follows a "crisis" requiring involvement of the highest levels of government. Furthermore, most funding for public education in the U.S. comes from the state level, not the federal. Local funds have become the "discretionary" resources for ensuring that "extra" funds are available to support curricula, personnel, or activities beyond minimal levels of support provided by state government formulae. …

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