All of the stories in this toolkit are stories from Hallways to Health wellness champions; the more we share the powerful impact of our work, the more we encourage others to join in our work. It’s crucial to get the word out about your school-wide wellness efforts to students, school staff, the surrounding community, and potential funders. Communicating clearly will help your wellness team shape the opinions of school staff and community members on the role of the wellness efforts, motivate young people and their families to participate, and persuade potential funders to join your movement.
Your wellness team should employ a variety of communications strategies. Below you’ll find some of the strategies the Hallways to Health sites used to jumpstart—and sustain—their wellness efforts.
Sharing your story in the most effective way to each of your audiences can pay big dividends:
- Lead to additional financial and resource support, and even policy changes.
- Build support for the wellness team’s vital work throughout the school and community.
- Promote health awareness, education, and access to students and their families.
- Publicize school-wide wellness efforts to increase participation.
- Empower youth to own their stories, experiences, and health.
- Create a communications and marketing plan to increase the visibility and garner support for school-wide wellness efforts.
- Plot ongoing outreach efforts to meet, share stories, and maintain relationships with stakeholders.
- Above all, be clear, brief, persuasive, and timely with your communications.
- Include school-wide wellness efforts throughout your SBHC’s communications. Share your school wellness progress, program updates and opportunities to get involved in your newsletters, emails, and webpage.
- Utilize external blogs and websites from SBHC medical sponsor organizations, school or district websites or state School-Based Health Alliance, as platforms to highlight efforts and successes in improving school wellness.
- Mention school-wide wellness efforts in traditional media like newsletters, mid-year and year-end letters, campus newspapers and publications, and handouts.
- Work with students, your school and/or sponsor organization communications department, community leaders, PTA members, and interns to create or adapt marketing materials to promote your wellness events.
- Use the school public address (P.A.) system to feature upcoming events so all students and staff have the ability to participate.
- For younger students, put flyers and other printed materials in their backpacks to take home and share with families.
- Use school events, meetings, and assemblies as opportunities to promote or present outcomes from school-wide wellness efforts. Use Storyboard Guidance as a template for sharing your school wellness outcomes.
- Social networking sites, like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, are useful platforms for sharing brief messages, photos, and videos to connect with your community and promote upcoming events. This is especially effective to connect with youth.
- Spotlight: Twitter
- What should you share on Twitter? Relevant news clips, articles/resources your SBHC staff wrote or utilized, blog posts from staff and youth, updates on your school-wide wellness efforts, and on upcoming events.
- Determine who will tweet. Ideally, you will have a team of three to four people who have access to the account and can keep it up-to-date.
- Keep your tweets respectful and professional.
- Spotlight: Twitter
- Identify the school- or district-level marketing personnel who can help you promote your efforts.
- Look out for opportunities to feature school-wide wellness efforts on local media–changes in school or district policy, and well-attended events are great opportunities to publicize.
- If you don’t have a school marketing person, you can identify local media outlets (local news, radio) to increase visibility, public attention, and build buy-in. Establish a relationship with the appropriate contact at each outlet and keep a list of those individuals.
- Promote longer-term health competitions, such as Biggest Loser and steps competitions, to create active school communities. Publicly recognize participants and winners in school publications and at school-wide events.
- Organize health awareness campaigns and challenges, such as flu vaccine campaigns, Wellness Wednesday lunches, and email blasts with nutrition and physical activity tips, tools, and factoids to school staff to create a school-wide culture of health.
- Encourage school wellness champions and committees to take charge of promoting school-wide wellness efforts that align with their mission. For example, the staff wellness committee can post wellness information and oversee monthly staff wellness challenges, while the student running club can offer tips on the benefits of physical activity.
- Provide infographics and one-pagers to partners to introduce the importance and role of your wellness efforts in creating a healthier school.
- Unlike other forms of data, a well-crafted story invites audiences to experience information. It illustrates the process and human experiences that lead to the positive outcomes of school-wide wellness. Furthermore, storytelling is also a valuable planning, outreach, and engagement tool. Sharing stories can help capture wellness team progress, and build relationships with families, youth, and community members.
- Develop a story to communicate the impact of school-wide wellness:
- Identify the target audience and objective for the story. Develop an understanding of their perspectives, priorities, and goals to craft a story that will grab their attention and motivate them to take action.
- Create a story template using the 3C’s Story Framework (Challenge, Choice, and Change). Focus on a specific challenge impacting a population; the choices (actions) made to address this challenge, and the change or outcome of this work.
- Lead with the “why” when telling a story—share why school-wide wellness is important and making a difference. Speaking from a personal as well as professional perspective can achieve this objective.
- Add data to the story—this will strengthen the narrative.
- Use the Message Box tool and Storytellers for Change: Storytelling Toolkit to help craft the story.
- Empower youth to share their own stories and experiences and train YAC members to collect stories and experiences from other students. Are youth interested in sharing their achievements with others? Are they well equipped to produce communications? What resources or support do they need? Be sure to have written permission from students to share their stories and photos or keep the stories confidential/anonymous.
Stories from the Field
At Northwood High School, Silver Spring, MD, the wellness team created policy changes to address the school’s high rate of student absenteeism. With help from their partners, Nourish Now, the team piloted an in-class breakfast program during the 2016-2017 school year in a few classes to improve attendance rates. Teachers reported that with the in-class breakfast option, the students showed more energy, arrived to class early, and showed improvements in grades. The SBHC staff shared breakfast participation rates, student feedback, and teacher observations as evidence of the program’s success. The wellness team met with school leaders and shared presentations with the district wellness committee with the hope of expanding the in-class breakfast program.
At Milwaukie High School, Milwaukie, OR, the SBHC staff partnered with school administration and the district nutrition provider to promote their alternative breakfast program. They sent email announcements, explained the program at staff meetings, and made a bulletin board in the cafeteria to demonstrate how students could participate. SBHC staff worked with youth leaders to develop these materials. The SBHC staff also sent bi-monthly newsletters to school staff, and led meetings with the youth advisory council and community advisory council to inform school staff about school-wide wellness activities and share progress on healthy eating and social and emotional health initiatives. The Youth Advisory Committee and the Community Advisory Committee then served as liaisons, sharing this information with other staff members, students, and community members. These combined communication strategies led to increased student participation and staff buy-in for in school-wide wellness efforts.
Share your stories to increase support for school-wide wellness and help other SBHCs replicate your work.
At Turner Elementary School, Albany, GA the SBHC’s Physician Assistant (PA) actively promotes and disseminates the Hallways to Health model by training and providing technical assistance to five SBHCs that share the same medical organization. Other SBHC sites visit Turner’s SBHC to learn about school-wide wellness and identify ways to replicate the model. Turner’s wellness team frequently shares the successes of their school-wide wellness work with a variety of different audiences through in-person meetings and conferences.
The team presented their work to the local hospital executive team, and to business and community leaders, highlighting Turner’s Hallways to Health activities and accomplishments at the school and throughout the school district. The local hospital executives were so impressed with Turner’s data and success that they agreed to fund the construction of two new SBHCs slated to open in March 2018 at two other elementary schools.
At San Fernando High School, San Fernando, CA, the Hallways to Health Coordinator is responsible for SBHC social media. In this role, the Hallways to Health Coordinator uses Instagram, the students’ preferred media, as a tool for youth outreach and engagement. She crafted a profile to be attractive to students based on student needs and trends. To increase students’ comfort level with private questions, the Coordinator lets students know she runs the account. She posts a few times per week on the platform to address health misconceptions, and provide health tips and information on gender identity, mental health, clinic hours, and confidential services. Students can access the Instagram account for health information even when the SBHC is closed. After revamping the Instagram account to be youth focused, and offering giveaways to encourage students to follow the page, the number of followers increased from 120 to over 400 in just 6 months. The SBHC staff even won an award for their innovative use of social media to conduct outreach and connect youth with care.
At Merlo Station, Beaverton, OR, the wellness team created a logo to brand and promote school-wide wellness efforts. At each event, the team provides a giveaway that includes health information, shows the team logo, and lists members of the school wellness team. For instance, after leading a school-wide mindfulness program, each student received a wallet-sized card with meditation and breathing tips. The card included the wellness team logo and contact information–sending a message that school personnel and SBHC staff were invested in student health and wellness.