The Relationship between School Health Councils and School Health Policies and Programs in US Schools

By Brener, Nancy D.; Kann, Laura et al. | Journal of School Health, April 2004 | Go to article overview

The Relationship between School Health Councils and School Health Policies and Programs in US Schools


Brener, Nancy D., Kann, Laura, McManus, Tim, Stevenson, Beth, Wooley, Susan F., Journal of School Health


ABSTRACT: This study analyzed data from the School Health Policies and Programs Study (SHPPS) 2000 to examine the relationship between school health councils and selected school health policies and programs. SHPPS 2000 collected data from faculty and staff in a nationally representative sample of schools. About two-thirds (65.7%) of US schools have school health councils. Schools with councils were significantly more likely than schools without councils to report policies and programs related to health services, mental health and social services, faculty and staff health promotion, and family and community involvement. Schools with councils were as likely as schools without councils to report policies and programs related to health education, physical education, and food service. Although school health councils are associated with the presence of some key school health policies and programs, a council does not guarantee a school will have all important school health policies and programs in place. (J Sch Health. 2004;74(4): 130-135)

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A school health council is a group of individuals from a school or school district and its community that provides advice on aspects of the school health program. (1) Councils are found at the school district and individual school levels. Different names have been used to describe councils, including school health advisory council, (1) school health committee, (2) healthy school team, (3) and community school health coordinating council. (4) Regardless of name, each group has been described as a critical component of a school health program. For example, Fetro (3) explains that establishing a healthy school team is a step that schools can take to establish a school health program. Similarly, the Institute of Medicine states that "the essential foundation for any successful comprehensive school health program is built from the involvement of a wide range of community stakeholders" and continues that "this involvement can be effectively organized and channeled through the formation of some type of 'community school health coordinating council." (4 (p 63))

Recommendations from the Committee on School Health of the American Academy of Pediatrics, (2) and guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), (5-7) also underscore the importance of establishing and maintaining school health councils. For example, CDC's Guidelines for School Health Programs to Promote Lifelong Healthy Eating recommend involvement of family members and the community in supporting and reinforcing nutrition education, and note that engagement of community resources to respond to the nutritional needs of children can be accomplished through school health advisory councils. (7)

Most publications about school health councils provide guidance to individuals and schools on the basics of school health councils, such as how to start a council, select council members, and conduct council meetings.'.8 These publications, however, do not provide information about the prevalence, characteristics, or effectiveness of existing school health councils.

One exception is a study by Dorman and Foulk9 that assessed characteristics of district-level school health councils in North Carolina, including number of members, number of meetings, and council functions. They did not, however, assess the quality of these councils and called for further study on the role of councils in the successful implementation of school health programs.

Killip et al (10) describe some case studies that document the effectiveness of a school health council as a means to improve the school health program, but no study to date has examined how school health councils nationwide are associated with multiple characteristics of school health programs. This study used data from the School Health Policies and Programs Study (SHPPS) 2000 to describe the prevalence of school health councils in schools in the United States and to examine the relationship between school health councils and selected school health policies and programs. …

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