Coordinated School Health (CSH) is a strategy developed and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). CSH is not a temporary fix for your school’s physical education or health department. It focuses on comprehensive, school-wide improvement of your students’ health and well-being, and it fosters an environment of learning.
The CDC’s eight components of Coordinated School Health are as follows:
Health education encompasses many topics, including alcohol and drug abuse, personal health and wellness, mental and emotional health, sexual health, and of course, healthy eating and nutrition. Students learn how to make health-promoting decisions and why those decisions are important. Our partner, Healthy Lifestyle Choices, is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping youth and families make these important decisions.
Physical education is much more than physical activity; the educational aspect is integral to long-term physical health. Students engage in activities that help them become more knowledgeable and aware of their physical well-being, as well as focus on acquiring new skills and improving existing ones.
Plus, many secondary skills are learned through this process: leadership, teamwork, communication, strategy, critical thinking, and many more.
To foster a truly health-conscious environment in your school, you need to include health services that focus on preventing illness by promoting sanitary conditions and access to emergency care for injury.
Moreover, the more education you can give students on the ways to remain disease and injury free, the more complete your plan will be.
Nutritious food options help maintain healthy lifestyles. By replacing unhealthy food options with healthy, locally sourced foods in your school’s nutrition program, you’re helping your students learn about healthy eating—a skill they can bring home and spread to their own families.
Following certain guidelines, like the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, is a good place for your nutrition services to start. Our partner, Healthy Kids Challenge, also offers tons of great information about how to help kids make healthy choices.
Depending on your area, the availability of nutritious food could be limited. Talk to SPARK representatives for guidance on how to implement nutrition services in your school.
Counseling, psychological, and social services
Complete well-being includes more than physical and nutritional health. In this case, counseling, psychological, and social services are meant to improve students’ mental, emotional, and social health, and provide trusted professionals that are there to guide students.
These services also help to prevent and recognize certain disorders that relate to health and wellness, including eating disorders and physical ailments that would normally go untreated.
Healthy and safe school environment
A healthy school environment means many things: starting with the physical property, as in ensuring your school’s building and grounds are free of dangerous elements (biological, physical, or otherwise); and ending with the social environment within that building, including the health culture perpetuated by your student body.
Since it’s often difficult for school administrators to get a grasp on what needs to change in order to create that health-conscious culture, our SPARK educators provide excellent resources.
Health promotion for staff
You can’t change your culture without also improving the ability of your role models to demonstrate healthy lifestyles to your students. By focusing on staff wellness, you’ll ensure your teachers are not only passing their experiences on to their students, but that your teachers are also reaping the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.
And the healthier your employees are, the lower your overall health care costs will be. This is potentially a budgetary golden egg; not only will your staff members be healthier, but you can use those health care savings to improve other areas of your organization.
You can engage your students in health-conscious activities during the school day, but there will be little positive change if the parents aren’t also educated on the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle.
The same goes with the community as a whole; there are some great ways to get your community’s leaders involved in construction of safe walkways, bike lanes, and playgrounds for kids and parents alike to enjoy.
With family/community involvement, students (and their families and friends) practice healthy lifestyle techniques that will increase their quality of life.
SPARK’s Coordinated School Health Initiative
Inspired by the CDC’s CSH strategy, SPARK’s CSH Initiative focuses on two desirable outcomes:
- 1. Environmental Change: How do we create environments that foster healthy eating, offer myriad physical activity opportunities, and facilitate consistent practice of wellness pursuits?
- 2. Behavior Change: Within those environments, individuals are faced with choices every minute of the day. After basic knowledge is disseminated (i.e., eat less, move more, get inoculated, etc.) what efforts are made to teach people the skills they need to practice healthful behaviors on and off campus?
How Does CSH Work?
In order to develop a Coordinated School Health strategy for your organization, you must assess your school’s current standing in various areas to see what needs improvement. For SPARK’s CSHI, we work with ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) using their Healthy School Report Card (HSRC) to assess where schools stand in regard to CSH.
Your school might shine in the physical education component but lack access to healthy food or counseling services. We’re here to help you figure out what areas need improvement and develop a plan accordingly.
Talk to SPARK representatives today to address these components and goals for YOUR unique school or agency.