13 SBHCs Revolutionized the Way We Think About Wellness: Here’s How

13 SBHCs Revolutionized the Way We Think About Wellness: Here’s How

By Jordanna Snyder, Hallways to Health program manager

How can wellness spill out from school-based health centers (SBHCs) into the surrounding hallways, the school staff offices, and into the community itself? What role can SBHCs play in school-wide health promotion and illness prevention?

Over the last four years, I’ve had the pleasure of working closely with amazing school-based health practitioners in thirteen SBHCs in California, Georgia, Maryland, Oregon, and Washington. Through generous funding from Kaiser Permanente, the School-Based Health Alliance distributed grants to those SBHC sponsor organizations in a quest to answer those very questions. We named the initiative, Hallways to Health (H2H).

Several grantees elected to use their H2H funds to hire a dedicated coordinator or health educator, while others chose to expand the hours of existing SBHC practitioners and designate one of their own staff as project coordinator.  Our state partners at the California School-Based Health Alliance, the Georgia School-Based Health Alliance, the Maryland Assembly on School-Based Health Care, and the Oregon School-Based Health Alliance supported the H2H sites with coaching and technical assistance.

This cadre of Hallways to Health coordinators worked tirelessly to foster the systemic conditions—values, beliefs, norms, policies, practices, programs, services, and partnerships—to advance health and enable ALL children to thrive in the classroom.

By formalizing a liaison role between their SBHC and school, the coordinators discovered new ways to address student social determinants of health like food insecurity; united with principals to improve academic outcomes; partnered with teachers to introduce health education in both classrooms and staff professional development trainings; set up parent education nights and family events; and strengthened school and district health and wellness policies.

I got to know these school health leaders through site visits, on monthly calls, and in annual group gatherings where they shared ideas with one another and bonded into a creative, high-energy network. I couldn’t believe how innovative, driven, and persistent they were. They were fearlessly willing to try on new rolesthinking outside the box and outside of the traditional scope of their clinical practices. And boy, did they excel!

After four years of intense H2H work across the sites, we witnessed major increases in the number of SBHC staff, school administrators, teachers, and students involved in school-wide health efforts. We also saw H2H champions craft sustainable programs and policies in areas like student social and emotional health, healthy eating, and active living. We even watched programs transform the health habits of school staff as well.

This year, we’ve reached hundreds of other SBHCs by traveling the country and spreading the Hallways to Health gospel—that SBHCs can be catalysts for broad, school-wide wellness—via in-person and virtual trainings. More SBHCs are now motivated to start their own H2H-style programs than ever before.

The collective work of our H2H sites has been catalogued in a brand new toolkit, “Creating a School-Wide Culture of Wellness.” It contains everything you need to know to hit the ground running.

This toolkit synthesizes Hallways to Health work into the key steps it took coordinators to plan, grow, and sustain their school-wide wellness efforts. In each section, you’ll find best practices, helpful tips, stories, video interviews, and sample tools.

I can’t thank our thirteen H2H sites enough for letting us share their journeys with the broader school-based health care field, and I can’t wait for you to check out what they’ve been able to do!

Visit the Hallways to Health Toolkit

Visit our webinar archive to view a four-part webinar series that introduces each section of the toolkit.

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