Focusing on creating healthy schools has direct benefits for students, staff and teachers and has impacts on the health of the broader community. Schools play a critical role in promoting the health of young people and helping them establish lifelong patterns of healthy behavior. Likewise, healthy staff and teachers are critical elements of a healthy school community.
Below you can find links to some of the key research that underscores the connection between health and wellness initiatives in schools and educational outcomes, as well as between workforce health programs and employee retention, satisfaction and productivity.
Kaiser Permanente research
- Kaiser Permanente’s Obesity Prevention Interventions in Schools Show Signs of Success for Improving Children’s Health — Researchers examined a series of Kaiser Permanente community-based obesity prevention interventions in adults and children and found that the more effective obesity prevention interventions were those that were “high dose” — reaching large populations with greater strength — and those that focused specifically on changing child behaviors within the school environment.
- Survey: Americans Expect Schools to Lead in Preventing Childhood Obesity — Americans view obesity as a serious problem among both the overall public and among children and teens, and most people believe that local K-12 schools need to take a leading role in combating the epidemic, according to a recent survey conducted by Field Research Corp.
- Kaiser Permanente’s Educational Theatre Teaches Kids about Healthy Eating and Physical Activity — Live productions involving music, puppets and plays are effective ways of teaching young children about the importance of eating healthy and being physically active, an independent study of Kaiser Permanente’s Educational Theatre Program found. The Center for Community Health and Evaluation’s article was published online March 8 in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.
Links between education and health
- Why Education Matters to Health: Exploring the Causes — This issue brief, created with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, provides an overview of what research shows about the links between education and health alongside the perspectives of residents of a disadvantaged urban community in Richmond, Virginia.
- The Critical Connection between Student Health and Academic Achievement: How Schools and Policymakers can Achieve a Positive Impact — This report provides an overview of the connection between student health, dropout rates, attendance and academic performance. Poor health, chronic conditions and stress all result in poor attendance, so impacting student health is a way to reduce absenteeism.
- Health and Academic Achievement — This document provides evidence that healthy children have improved academic achievement through improved grades, improved attendance, better mood and other factors. It also provides messaging for a variety of stakeholders to make the case for health-oriented programs to improve student performance, as well as provides specific actions that can be taken to support healthy eating and physical activity in school.
Youth, parent and leadership engagement for creating healthy schools
- Regenerations: Healthy Communities Final Evaluation Summary Report — This evaluation report examines the effectiveness of programs engaging youth in food justice community organizing efforts to achieve food access policy change. Evaluation findings describe: the effectiveness of youth-based community organizing around food justice as a strategy for impacting obesity and community health; lessons learned about how youth-based community organizing works in different contexts; and opportunities for youth alliance building around food justice from local to regional and national levels.
- Health in Mind: Improving Education through Wellness.” Healthy Schools Campaign and Trust for America’s Health — This report presents research, policy analysis and immediate recommendations focused on: preparing teachers and principals to promote student health and wellness; engaging parents in school health; incorporating health and wellness into school metrics, accountability and recognition programs; building the Department of Education’s capacity to address student health and wellness; and placing a school nurse in every school.
- The Healthy School Communities Model: Aligning Health & Education in the School Setting — This report explores how schools that work purposefully toward enhancing the mental, social, emotional and physical health of their staff and students can achieve key outcomes, including: higher academic achievement, staff satisfaction, less turnover and a healthy school climate.
Improving physical education effectiveness and access to physical activity
- Strategies to Improve the Quality of Physical Education — This document provides an overview of the current state of physical education in many schools. It provides concrete recommendations for increasing moderate to vigorous physical activity via 1) improving curriculum design and 2) providing teachers with appropriate training and supervision to implement improved physical activities in class.
- Recommendations in Educating the Student Body: Taking Physical Activity and Physical Education to School — The Institute of Medicine recommendations for strengthening and improving physical activity and PE in the school environment include: creating a whole school approach to physical activity (PA) to engage students in more than 60 minutes of MVPA daily; designating PA as a core subject; training to staff and teachers to support improved PA; and addressing disparities in access to PE facilities, and resources.
- Effects of a Classroom-Based Program on Physical Activity and On-Task Behavior — This study evaluated the effects of a classroom-based physical activity program on children’s in-school physical activity levels and on-task behavior during academic instruction.
- The Association Between School-Based Physical Activity, Including Physical Education, and Academic Performance — This report synthesizes the scientific literature that has examined the association between school-based physical activity, including physical education, and academic performance, including indicators of cognitive skills and attitudes, academic behaviors and academic achievement.
School policies to promote healthy eating, active living
- Shape Up Somerville: Change in Parent Body Mass Indexes During a Child-Targeted, Community-Based Environmental Change Intervention — Shape Up Somerville is a multi-level community-based intervention that targeted communities, homes and schools in Somerville, Mass. This research shows that an effective school intervention intended to reduce childhood obesity impacts not only children, but also can have ‘spillover’ effects, impacting parents’ BMI as well.
- Healthy Schools Program Framework: Criteria for Developing a Healthier School Environment — This framework identifies best practices for schools to create their own comprehensive healthy eating and active living policies and programs. It’s more of a resource checklist, but it seems like it would be particularly useful for school sites interested in learning more about best practices and whether or not they are engaging in any good, comprehensive activities already.
- Schools and Obesity Prevention: Creating School Environments and Policies to Promote Healthy Eating and Physical Activity — Focus of this article is on the role of schools to improve food and physical activity environments, as well as policies to improve standards for schools. Found that competitive foods are widely available and contribute to excess calorie intake, and that physical activity can be inserted into the school curriculum relatively easily. While schools have made some progress, more work is needed and stronger policies are going to play a key role.
School climate and social/emotional well-being
- Learning to BREATHE: An Intervention to Foster Mindfulness in Adolescence — This report provides a description of a particular mindfulness program, BREATHE, and how it impacts adolescent development. Also provides examples of how to take a program like this to scale to become a larger component of improving school culture and wellness.
- School Climate: Research, Policy, Practice, and Teacher Education — This article provides a broad overview of the state of ‘school climate’ research and understanding, pointing to the fact that there are broad interpretations of what school climate even means. It provides recommendations for educators to do their own assessment of climate and to improve guidelines for creating a positive climate for students, on the basis that a positive climate improves student performance and health, as well as reduces teacher stress.
- Mindfulness in Practice: Considerations for Implementation of Mindfulness-Based Programming for Adolescents in School Contexts — This article provides overview of mindfulness and social and emotional learning (SEL) initiatives in schools to foster “attention, resiliency, and well-being,” with guidance for educational institutions on how to implement a mindfulness or SEL program successfully and sustainably.
Promoting healthy beverages and foods at school and decreasing exposure to unhealthy beverages and foods
- Association Between School Food Environment and Practices and Body Mass Index of US Public School Children — This is a scientific study that looked at the quality of food offerings in schools and associated outcomes related to obesity. It found that low-nutrient and energy-dense foods at lunch, in vending machines and near food service areas corresponded with increased likelihood of obesity and higher BMI.
- Competitive Foods and Beverages in U.S. Schools: A State Policy Analysis — The CDC analyzed state laws and policies to determine alignment with the IOM’s nutritional recommendations for schools to limit competitive foods, particularly those with little or no nutritional value. This report provides an overview of IOM standards for school foods that are nutritious and a state-by-state look at nutrition in schools. It shows where schools have had success and where there is room for improvement.
Eliminating junk food marketing at schools
- Food and Beverage Marketing in Schools: Putting Student Health at the Head of the Class — This editorial provides an overview of marketing in the school landscape, noting that in 2009, food and beverage companies spent $149 million on in-school marketing.
- Commercialism in US Elementary and Secondary School Nutrition Environments: Trends From 2007 to 2012 — This study examined national trends in student exposure to commercialism (such as beverage contracts and ads, corporate food incentives, posters and ads for soda, candy, and fast food available to students) from 2007 to 2012. Most students at all levels are exposed to some type of food marketing at school with significant increases associated with increased grade level. While some shifts have happened, clear and enforceable standards are necessary to improve the marketing and health environment for school youth.
School employee wellness
- Improving Classroom Learning Environments by Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE): Results of a Randomized Controlled Trial — This report reviews a program called Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE), which is a mindfulness program developed specifically for teachers to reduce stress and improve performance. The study found that participation in CARE resulted in improvements in teacher wellbeing, efficacy, stress rates, and mindfulness.
- Directors of Health Promotion and Education. School Employee Wellness: A Guide for Protecting the Assets of Our Nation’s Schools — This is a comprehensive guide developed to promote employee wellness programs at schools. It provides a model for creating and implementing school employee wellness programs and provides tools and resources to support the development.
- The Health and Cost Benefits of Work Site Health-Promotion Programs — This study reviews the state of the art in work site health promotion, focusing on factors that influence the health and productivity of workers. The results suggest that, when properly designed, work site health promotion programs can increase employees’ health and productivity.
- The Impact of the Highmark Employee Wellness Programs on 4-Year Healthcare Costs — This study suggests that a comprehensive health promotion program for employees can lower the rate of health care cost increases and produce a positive return on investment.
Promoting Safe Routes to School
- Effectiveness of a Safe Routes to School Program in Preventing School-Aged Pedestrian Injury — This study examined crash data to assess effectiveness of SRTS federal funding allocations made in 2005. During the study period, the annual rate of pedestrian injury decreased 33% among school-aged children (5- to 19-year-olds) and 14% in other age groups. The annual rate of school-aged pedestrian injury during school-travel hours decreased 44% in census tracts with SRTS interventions, which is a marked reduction in pedestrian injury in school-aged children in New York and evidence that SRTS is effective.
- Safe Routes to School and Health: Understanding the Physical Activity Benefits of Walking and Bicycling to School — This report looks at the potential benefits of increasing PA via SRTS strategies. It describes current research on active transportation to schools; what is already taking place in communities; and potential ways to implement SRTS programs. It also has recommendations for measuring health outcomes as a result of increasing SRTS.