Wellness is determined in great part by where children live, learn, and grow. Recognizing this, schools across the country are collaborating to create a culture of wellness that extends beyond the health clinic walls into school hallways, classrooms, cafeteria, teachers’ lounges and campus spaces.
Over the course of four years, and with funding from Kaiser Permanente, the School-Based Health Alliance joined with 13 established school-based health care programs across the nation in an initiative we call Hallways to Health. In common cause with students and families, the school-based health centers, community health organizations, and schools created coalitions of stakeholders including teachers, school administrators, student support professionals, medical and behavioral health professionals. Our aim: to create and foster the systemic conditions—values, beliefs, norms, policies, practices, programs, services, and partnerships—that promote health and enable ALL children to thrive in the classroom. Check out this infographic for a visual summary of the Hallways to Health model.
Using a range of tactics, including screenings, small groups, clubs, coaching, classes, assemblies, trainings, curriculum, personal goal challenges, marketing campaigns, and policy advocacy, the Hallways to Health school wellness committees, coalitions, and partnerships logged impressive achievements:
Decreased absenteeism, suspensions, and expulsions
Decreased stress among students and staff
Peaceable conflict resolution
Greater access to healthy and nutritious food and drinks throughout the school
More opportunities for physical activity
Universal access to health education and promotion
Increased school connectedness
The Hallways to Health initiative successfully demonstrates the transformative power of what a robust and inclusive school-health partnership can make possible for young people and their schools, including:
Food security and healthy eating: Students have access to nutritious foods in school and at home.
Built environment: Students have access to safe drinking water, pollutant-free air, and well-lit, sanitary, safe, and comfortable learning spaces.
Recreation and fitness: Students have routine opportunities for exercise through in-school recess and physical education, and at afterschool physical fitness clubs.
Neighborhood safety: Students have safe routes between home and school.
Social and emotional wellness: Students learn prosocial skills and are given tools for self-regulation, conflict management, and stress reduction.
School climate: Students attend schools that foster connectedness, respect and celebrate differences, and assure physical and emotional security.
Discipline approaches: Students are given alternatives to discipline such as restorative practices, healing circles, and peer courts that emphasize compassion and accountability over suspensions and expulsions.
Staff wellness: Staff and teachers are supported in their own wellness goals.
Services and supports: Students have easy access to clinical services and supports that get to the root causes of behavioral symptoms threatening their wellness and academic success.
This comprehensive resource uses tips and tools to help you build, assess, implement, and sustain your own path toward school-wide wellness as you:
Build your wellness team;
Engage and coordinate with the school, youth, parents/guardians, and community-based organizations;
Assess the conditions required for school-wide wellness;
Plan your actions (strategies and approaches) to achieve your vision for school-wide wellness;
Track your progress/success;
Share your stories; and
Sustain your efforts.
Restorative Justice: Restorative justice is a theory of justice that emphasizes repairing harm caused from behaviors with the goal of positively transforming people, relationships and communities. [i] It empowers students and other stakeholders to participate in a cooperative, collaborative process to resolve conflicts in place of punitive disciplinary actions like suspensions and expulsions. Implementing restorative practices “will strengthen positive school culture and enhance pro-social relationships within the school.” [ii]
Social Determinants of Health: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Healthy People 2020 note the impact of social determinants of health: “health is… determined in part by access to social and economic opportunities; the resources and supports available in our homes, neighborhoods, and communities; the quality of our schooling; the safety of our workplaces; the cleanliness of our water, food, and air; and the nature of our social interactions and relationships.” [iii]
Acknowledgements:Kaiser Permanente Thriving Schools supported the development of this resource as part of its national effort to improve the health of students, staff, and teachers in K-12 schools in four key areas: healthy eating, active living, school employee wellness, and social and emotional wellness. The information and content within this resource stems from the work of the School-Based Health Alliance’s Hallways to Health Learning Collaborative, a four-year endeavor involving 15,000 students; 2,500 school faculty members; and 13 schools located communities served by Kaiser Permanente.
Thank you to our partners and collaborators at Storytellers for Change, John Snow, Inc., American Public Health Association’s Center for School, Health, and Education and University of California, San Francisco for their efforts in design, delivery, and evaluation for Hallways to Health training. Thank you to our partners at Maryland Assembly on School-Based Health Care, California School-Based Health Alliance, Georgia School-Based Health Alliance, and the Oregon-School Based Health Alliance for providing technical assistance, support, and guidance to the SBHCs and for serving as thought partners with the Alliance throughout Hallways to Health.
Thank you to the school-based health centers and staff who committed to improving population health and served as a pilot group to introduce these concepts within our field. This toolkit includes their stories, best practices, and lessons learned.