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Elements of Excellence

Parents, teachers, school officials, students, and others in the community all need to play active roles in ensuring that schools meet the needs of students today and for a lifetime. The quality of a school health program can have a major impact on students’ academic achievement as well as their health and well-being. With this in mind, the American Cancer Society and a special team of health professionals developed a set of basic elements that define an exemplary school health program. Seeing whether a school has these elements in place can help you determine what progress your school has made toward having an outstanding school health program.

Key Elements

1. Active Leadership 

  • Key decision makers in school administration support school health.
  • A school health council meets regularly and offers guidance. It includes representatives from religious, medical, business, criminal justice, public health, and voluntary health communities, as well as families, administrators, teachers, students, and staff.
  • A specially trained employee has sufficient resources to coordinate the school health program.
  • Priorities are set based on information about youth health risks in the community.

2. A Coordinated Collaborative Approach

  • The school health council oversees all aspects of health, including programs such as health services, school lunch, and drug-free schools.
  • Priorities, roles, and tasks are identified and established based on understanding of community values and student, family, and staff needs.
  • The council provides a forum for open communication.
  • The council refines the school health program, based on changing needs and resources.
  • The school health program addresses the needs of all students, families, and staff.
  • The school health program links with other health and social service providers and programs in the community.

3. A Safe And Nurturing Learning Environment 

  • Policies, programs, and facilities promote clear, high expectations for positive academic achievement and positive health choices.
  • Facilities are hazard-free and promote learning.
  • Health-enhancing messages from multiple sources are consistent (e.g., nutrition education is reinforced by lunchroom offerings, safety messages are underscored by seat belt availability and use on school buses).

4. A Commitment Of Time, Personnel, And Resources 

  • Time, personnel, and resources are well-managed.
  • Students, families, and school employees have access to appropriate resources.
  • School staff have adequate time to plan and deliver health instruction and support services, and foster collaborative activities with community partners.
  • Time and resources are available to seek funding for efforts that address student and school needs.

You can download a more detailed explanation of these elements here. Elements of Excellence Brochure (PDF)