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.

Thanks to DASH – Dedicated Action for School Health for this content. Download a printable PDF.

Related research articleEssential conditions for the implementation of comprehensive school health to achieve changes in school culture and improvements in health behaviours of students  In this article Dr. Kate Storey and the SIRCLE lab outline the Core and Essential Conditions required to successfully implement CSH.

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

TIME – Enough time needs to be dedicated for implementation and success. Allotting time allows for CSH to be viewed as an embedded part of the school’s culture.

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.