Since 2011, Maricopa County Department of Public Health (MCDPH) has been implementing the School Health and Wellness Program. This program assists schools in addressing coordinated school health as a strategy to reducing the burden of chronic disease in Maricopa County, AZ.
The strategy is to increase the number of county schools completing the School Health Index, a comprehensive health and wellness self-assessment developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and implementing a School Health Improvement Plan. We help participating schools identify school-based policy, systems and environmental changes and encourage sustainable activities to address health and wellness through their action plans ways that help them meet the needs of their student population and community in one or more of eight focus areas outlined in the coordinated school health model:
- School health policies and environment
- Health education
- Physical education and physical activity
- Nutrition services
- School health services
- School counseling, psychological and social services
- Health promotion for staff
- Family and community involvement
The School Health and Wellness Program is a two year program. During the first year, participating schools elect a school coordinator to lead the program and complete the CDC School Health Index, or SHI. MCDPH prevention specialists provide an orientation to the school coordinator. The school coordinator - often a physical education teacher or school counselor - convenes their School Health Advisory Committee, or SHAC. The SHAC works together to complete the self-assessment and develop action plans to improve school health and wellness policies and practices. Upon the successful completion of the SHI, schools are eligible to begin the School Health Improvement Plan (SHIP) during the second year. During the second year, school coordinators reconvene the School Health Advisory Committee and implement the activities created by the action plan. MCDPH prevention specialists provide essential technical assistance and linkages to other public health programs and resources, but the action plans are driven by the schools' self-assessment, priorities, and feasibility.