How to Start a Coordinated School Health Program


American students will spend more than 14,000 hours in school between their first day of kindergarten and their last day of high school.

During that time, they are learning colors, animals, numbers, and shapes; calculus, biology, world history, physics, and Shakespeare. They learn how to communicate, how to lead, how to follow, how to make decisions, and how to make

They learn how to live healthy, happy, and rewarding lives—or do they? Perhaps not: schools without a coordinated school health program are missing an essential element.

Imagine a space shuttle blasting off from Cape Canaveral destined for the moon. Let’s say the shuttle itself represents an average education. In that case, an integrated coordinated school health program (CSHP) is the rocket that puts that shuttle into orbit. Without a CSHP, they could be missing vital educational components they need to reach the stars.

If you’re concerned that your school isn’t giving students an educational rocket-boost, don’t worry. We’ve detailed below how easy it is to start a coordinated school health program.

Focusing on your students

The point of a CSHP is to create an atmosphere in school where students can immerse themselves in all they need to know to stay healthy for the rest of their lives. That includes so much more than providing playtime at recess or doing jumping jacks in PE class.

There are eight facets to a complete CSHP: health education; physical education; health services; nutrition services; counseling, psychological, and social services; healthy and safe school environment; health promotion for staff; and family/community involvement.

These components include things like providing nutritious meals, education on avoiding injury and drug and alcohol use, setting up emergency services for physical and mental problems, and even educating teachers on how they can be positive role models by assimilating healthy lifestyles themselves.

Now that you’re focused, it’s time to secure administrative support.

Committing to your students

The support and commitment of your school’s superintendent and principal are vital to the success of a CSHP program. It’s these people who can organize an action plan, allocate funding and appoint people to oversee the various aspects of the program.

They will also be able to communicate with local, state, and national leaders to ensure your program is compliant with governmental guidelines.

Now that you have the support you need, it’s time to create a plan.

Planning for your students

Every school is different. You may already have a complete nutritional program in practice, or your counseling and emergency services might already be in full swing. As a result, your health education and staff wellness programs are lacking.

Prioritize your specific needs and goals with your administration and the people they’ve appointed to oversee your CSHP. Think about the following objectives:

  • Prioritize based on your students’ needs
  • Catalogue your available resources to aid in decision making
  • Be realistic with your goals
  • Establish a timeline for your plan
    • Implement in stages if necessary
  • Create criteria to use to determine whether your goals are met or not

Remember, students spend an enormous portion of their lives in school (secondary only to the time spent at home). Your coordinated school health program should be designed to improve the educational aspects of your curriculum, but it should also endeavor to improve the social climate. The more socially acceptable it is for your students to be healthy and care about living healthy lives, the more engaged they will be.

Now that you have your CSHP plan, it’s time to educate your educators.

Training for your staff and the community

The lynchpin to this whole concept is your teachers themselves. They not only serve as the primary source of information for your students, but they’re also role models. Do more than just give your staff the info they need to pass on through classroom lessons; give them the same education the students get.

If your teachers are healthier, their habits will pass on to their students. Healthy teachers also mean lower health care costs. Lower costs means more cash to put into underperforming areas of your CSHP program. And that filters back to the students.

Instituting a coordinated school health program is difficult, especially if it’s an entirely new concept to your school. But if it’s done correctly, it can help your students achieve better grades, live healthier lives, and spread their knowledge into the community and create a healthier out-of-school environment as well.

Next Steps: Getting Started

Whether your school has just started down the path to wellness or has already organized a wellness team, SPARK can help you move forward with building a comprehensive CSHP. It all starts with our Ignite A Healthy Environment program, where we begin with capacity building and a thorough analysis of your current CSH program to learn more about your particular needs and challenges.  It then aligns the health and wellbeing goals with your overall school improvement plan using the The Healthy School Report Card developed by ASCD. Click Here to learn more about the Ignite A Healthy Environment Program.

Get in touch with one of our helpful educators to get started. After all, every educational rocket launch begins with a SPARK.