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How the WSCC Model Impacts Health and Academic Achievement

Promoting healthy eating and physical activity can help schools reach their educational goals.

Have you heard about the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) model? It’s a collaborative framework developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that brings together educators and public health leaders to improve every child’s cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development.1

Recognizing that healthy children are better learners,2 the WSCC model offers student-centered guidelines for improving academic achievement through healthy school environments. When schools and school districts can partner with state education and public health entities to implement these guidelines, everyone benefits—because healthy, successful students help build strong communities.2

Here are a few things to know about the WSCC model as it relates to student health and academic achievement.

How Are Health and Academic Achievement Connected?

While the relationships between student health and academic achievement are complex, a growing body of evidence clearly demonstrates that one affects the other.3 According to research conducted by the CDC, a student’s diet and physical activity levels can predict how well they will perform in school—with poor nutrition and fitness correlating to poorer outcomes.2 Among other impacts, consider that:

  • Children who skip breakfast have a harder time paying attention, processing information, remembering, and solving problems.
  • Kids who are chronically hungry tend to earn lower grades, have higher levels of absenteeism, and are more likely to repeat a grade.
  • Students who are physically active exhibit higher rates of school attendance, tend to earn better grades, and can better pay attention and behave in the classroom.

When children have access to healthy food, adequate nutrition, and opportunities to exercise and recreate, they perform better on all measures of academic achievement. Unfortunately, more than one in seven children in the U.S. today lives in a food-insecure home4 and nearly 60% of American children do not have good cardiorespiratory fitness5—a key measure of overall health. That’s the bad news. The good news is that close to 95% of children and youth in the U.S. attend school.6 This unique opportunity to provide kids with crucial health services and programs is one reason the WSCC model exists—and why, when well implemented, it can shine.

How Does the WSCC Model Impact Health and Academic Achievement?

The WSCC model defines academic achievement according to a student’s academic performance (including grades, standardized test scores, and graduation rates); education behavior (including attendance, behaviors when at school, and dropout risk); and cognitive skills and attitudes (including concentration, memory, and mood).

In doing so, it simultaneously outlines specific areas where public health experts, educational leadership and administration professionals, and other stakeholders can make meaningful, school-based interventions to improve student outcomes.

For example, because children spend much of their time at school, they may eat as many as two out of three daily meals there. By providing access to healthy foods, schools and districts can help students earn better grades, focus on their lessons, and stay in school. Similarly, students likely get most of their physical activity during the school day. By offering active recess, physical education classes, and sports opportunities, schools and districts can help youth build solid foundations for health.

More specifically, the WSCC model offers a robust list of recommended actions that states, school districts, schools, parents, and students themselves can take to improve health and academic achievement. These include—but certainly are not limited to—the following:2

  • Developing policies that support healthy school nutrition environments and a comprehensive approach to physical activity in schools.
  • Offering professional development to schools on healthy breakfast and lunch options, creating standards for vending machine offerings, creating walk- and bike-to-school programs, and more.
  • Supporting health education programs to incorporate nutrition and physical activity topics.
  • Creating and participating in peer groups that can contribute to and promote healthy school nutrition environments and physical activity opportunities.

How Can I Help Students Succeed in School?

Under the WSCC model, everyone—from parents and teachers to school nurses and public health professionals—plays an important role in how our children learn.

If you’re interested in bringing these stakeholders together and guiding them toward common goals, earning a doctorate in education could be a great place to start. An EdD or PhD in Education can help you gain the knowledge, skills, and credentials you need to research, plan, and implement frameworks, like the WSCC model, that impact academic achievement. With an education doctorate, you can become a sought-after expert and changemaker with the power to shape better student outcomes—and brighter futures.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering doctoral degrees in education online. Its PhD in Education and Doctor of Education (EdD) programs offer educators the opportunity to broaden their career opportunities and impact while continuing to work in the field.


Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,