Promoting Comprehensive School Health Programs through Summer Health Promotion Conferences

By Smith, Dennis W.; Steckler, Allan et al. | Journal of School Health, February 1991 | Go to article overview

Promoting Comprehensive School Health Programs through Summer Health Promotion Conferences


Smith, Dennis W., Steckler, Allan, McLeroy, Kenneth R., Bennett, John, Frye, Robert, Journal of School Health


School health, described as place as "a place not discipline," (1) involves individuals from diverse perspectives working to enhance opportunities for developing healthful lifestyles within schools. This is not a new conceptualization of school health. In fact, three components--instruction, services, and environment--have persisted as a means of meeting the health needs of the school-aged child, (2) and are referred to as the school health program.

The changing nature of child health problems has emerged as a major factor in the evolution of school health programs. (3) Early health education efforts emphasized physical fitness, hygiene, and communicable disease control and prevention. Recently, effects of behavior and the social and physical environment on health (4) have challenged health professionals to develop more comprehensive school-based interventions. (5-6) Kolbe (2) suggested expanding the traditional tripartite organizational model to include eight components: school health services, school health education, school health environment, integrated school and community health promotion efforts, school physical education, school food services, school counseling, and health promotion services for faculty and staff. Commonalities across the eight components are teamwork, program planning for school health, and varying levels of implementation and involvement--with students, staff/ faculty, parents, and community members--within the social context of the school. (2-5)

Though theoretically sound, organizing a functional comprehensive school health program is difficult. Problems in the implementation of comprehensive school health programs include delineation of clear roles and responsibilities, participation of representative individuals, program purpose, leadership, and program accountability. (2,5,7-11)

One strategy for encouraging schools to adopt and implement comprehensive school health programs, is health promotion conferences. Since the origination of these conferences in 1977 at Seaside, Ore., 26 other states have conducted similar conferences. (13) In many states, "Seaside" has evolved into a statewide effort focusing on promoting school health through local advocacy and action. "Seaside" conferences enable participants to develop change agent skills through formal and informal networks of interaction. (14) Strategies for achieving this goal include action plan development and team building. Conferences also provide opportunities for personal health behavior assessment and change, health information, and information on health curriculum and other school health program components. (14)

Research on the effects of "Seaside-type" conferences has been limited. One survey of state conferences revealed only six of 15 responding states with conferences conducted impact evaluations of those efforts. (13) Historically, such evaluation efforts have targeted participants' subjective statements of effect. (12,15)

Several research reports have supported the value of "Seaside" conferences for promoting school health. Drolet and Davis (14) noted significant positive changes associated with "Seaside" participants versus a comparison group in their role modeling of health-related behaviors, healthful personal behaviors, and selected school health program components. Though the study response rate was low (52% experimental, 35% comparison) and the intervention group self-selected participation in the conference, the researchers concluded "Seaside" was a major factor in explaining the health-related differences between groups. Girvin and Cotrell's (16) research on the impact of the "Seaside Health Education Conference" on health programs indicated statistically significant differences between principal and teacher conference attenders and nonattenders in health program philosophy, amount of curriculum emphasis on health topics, student attitudes about health courses, and diffusion of healthful concepts to other teachers. …

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