Comprehensive school health is an internationally recognized framework for supporting improvements in students’ educational outcomes while addressing school health in a planned, integrated and holistic way.
Dr. Kate Storey, a researcher from the University of Alberta, has compiled a list of the essential conditions to successfully implement a comprehensive school health approach. Use this list to build your school’s capacity to implement comprehensive school health and create healthy changes for your school community.
Essential Conditions for Taking a Comprehensive School Health Approach
Core Conditions are the conditions necessary for a CSH approach to be successfully implemented. Contextual Conditions have a great degree of influence on the ability for the core conditions to be obtained.
The Core Conditions
STUDENTS AS CHANGE AGENTS – Students are the heart of taking a CSH approach and their voices, leadership, and enthusiasm creates increased engagement. Students serve as change agents through peer–to-peer interactions. In the home environment, students are the drivers of change and help engage family through their buy-in.
SCHOOL-SPECIFIC AUTONOMY – When taking a CSH approach, activities need to be customized to meet the needs of the school. They should be flexible, build on the school’s strengths and assets, be tailored based on school-specific evidence, and provide a sense of school ownership. Cultural considerations and diverse needs (geographical, historical and sociocultural) should be integrated.
DEMONSTRATED ADMINISTRATIVE LEADERSHIP – School principals are seen to play an invaluable role throughout the process of taking a CSH approach and are a key stakeholder in facilitating a culture shift within a school community. The key is that principals are actively engaged, rather than merely supporters of school health champions and offering passive buy-in.
HIGHER-LEVEL SUPPORT – Leadership and support at district and/or provincial/territorial levels sets the tone in order to prioritize CSH on the school agenda and provides opportunities for resources (time/funding) to be allocated.
DEDICATED CHAMPION(S) TO ENGAGE SCHOOL COMMUNITY – School health champions are imperative from a leadership perspective and for getting projects up and running and on-going integration of CSH in schools. However, school health champions can sometimes become a barrier as buy-in from all school staff is crucial for sustainability.
COMMUNITY SUPPORT – Establishing strong internal and external relationships and building partnerships with the community play a key role in the success of taking a CSH approach, especially before and during implementation. Community connections (including parents/families) can help strengthen the type of programs schools can offer.
QUALITY AND USE OF EVIDENCE – Evidence in the form of school-based process and outcome data, individualized school reports, and research findings are essential for planning, refining, and supporting school communities taking a CSH approach.
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT – Professional development and training prior to implementation is key for understanding the project and building self-efficacy. Ongoing PD is essential for strengthening knowledge and skills needed to support the success of taking a CSH approach.
The Contextual Conditions
PRIOR COMMUNITY CONNECTIVITY – Trusting relationships help stakeholders build competency, enthusiasm, and ownership, which can lead to a more natural implementation.
READINESS & UNDERSTANDING – A clear understanding of CSH and why it’s important can support readiness, which creates a willingness for implementation.
FUNDING AND PROJECT SUPPORT – Sustainable funding and support from CSH project staff greatly contribute to the facilitation of implementation.
Source: Storey, K. E., Montemurro, G., Flynn, J., Schwartz, M., Wright, E., Osler, J., Veugelers, P. J., & Roberts, E. (2016). Essential conditions for the implementation of comprehensive school health to achieve changes in school culture and improvements in health behaviours of students. BMC Public Health, 16, 1133.