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10 Things You Can Learn From the School Health Index

This free self-evaluation can guide your school toward better health.

The School Health Index is a self-evaluation tool that empowers schools to develop or improve their health and safety programs. It is based on research-based guidelines developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While it may sound like an intimidating research project, in actuality, the School Health Index is simple, is free, and can be completed in about six hours.1


To complete the School Health Index, school community members—such as a health committee made up of teachers, administrators such as the school principal, staff, students, and parents—gather to talk about how your school promotes healthy behaviors and to identify areas for improvement. You’ll look at multiple areas that impact health, from nutrition to safety to chronic health conditions like asthma and food allergies. The School Health Index even addresses the health and wellness of school staff members. Through the evaluation process, your School Health Index team will create a prioritized School Health Improvement Plan (SHIP) to capitalize on your school’s strengths and make improvements where needed.2

The School Health Index can help you identify actions to take, policies to update, and training to implement. Here are 10 things you can learn from the School Health Index.

  1. Your school can make exercise facilities available after school hours. By opening the school gym, track, or sports field after school is out, you can give students and their families a safe, free, local place to exercise in the evening and on weekends.
  2. Food and beverage marketing activities need to be managed. Savvy marketers may offer coupons and contests to your school or sponsor food or beverage containers or athletic equipment, but these activities should be limited to food and drinks that meet the Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards established by the USDA.
  3. Students need a safe place to secure their bikes and equipment. Your school can encourage students to bike to school by increasing the number of bike racks and providing a space to store helmets.
  4. By offering fruits and vegetables in multiple locations and displaying them in attractive bowls or baskets, your cafeteria can promote healthy food and beverage choices.
  5. Does your school have a full-time counselor, psychologist, and social worker? The School Health Index might show you that more staff are needed. The recommended ratios are: one counselor for every 250 students, one psychologist for every 1,000 students, and one social worker for every 400 students.3
  6. Sports and play areas should be inspected regularly. A daily safety walk of the sports field can find hazards like glass and holes that can be fixed quickly, which will help to prevent injuries.
  7. Families need to be involved in student health. Schools should communicate with families about school health activities and programs using a variety of methods that are both linguistically and culturally appropriate.
  8. It’s just as important to make physical activity accessible to school staff as to students. Your school or district should offer free or low-cost fitness programs and activities for staff.
  9. Partner to promote good health! Schools can team up to promote health and wellness with local hospitals, businesses, or community organizations.
  10. Your school’s start time may need to be shifted. To improve middle school and high school students’ health and academic performance, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that classes start at 8:30 a.m. or later.4

Once your school has completed the School Health Index and developed a SHIP, the focus can turn to implementing that plan. And it doesn’t have to happen overnight. Perhaps your school will establish a five-year plan. Then you could review progress annually and reassess the plan every two or three years. That way, you’ll be consistently working toward creating a healthier school with healthier students and staff.

If you want to become an education leader for healthy schools, you can consider earning your Education Specialist (EdS) degree. An EdS degree is a great option for continuing your post-master’s education—without having to write a dissertation. And you can earn your EdS while continuing to work by enrolling in an online program. Earning your Education Specialist degree online can help open the door to a new set of career opportunities as an educational leader or even as a school principal.

Walden University, an accredited university, offers an EdS in Educational Leadership and Administration (Principal Licensure Preparation) online degree program that can help you gain the leadership skills you need to become a transformative steward of healthy, high-performing schools. The faculty is composed of educators with deep experience in educational administration. Their goal is to empower you to become a knowledgeable, effective school principal or administrator.

Take the next step up in your career with Walden. Earn your EdS in Educational Leadership and Administration (Principal Licensure Preparation) degree online at your own pace and on your own schedule. It’s your pathway to becoming a licensed school principal or administrator through a program that is nationally recognized by the Educational Leadership Constituent Council.


Career options may require additional experience, training, or other factors beyond the successful completion of this degree program.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,