Establishing a Community-School Health Council

Community-School Health Councils: Rationale

Now more than ever, children face new challenges and risks in their school environment and they need concerned adults to become involved. An important way to engage families in the school is through involvement in a Community-School Health Council (CSHC). A CSHC is a core group of parents, youth, educators, business and religious leaders, and others who represent different segments of the community. The group works together to give advice and support to the school on all parts of its school health program.

Community-School Health Councils (CSHCs) can help advance coordinated school health programming and, therefore, the health of children and adolescents, in the following ways:

  1. Program planning, such as participating in curriculum review, identifying emerging health issues, encouraging innovation in health education, and providing in-service training programs.
  2. Advocacy, such as ensuring that sufficient resources are given to support school health and health education programs, helping to build understanding between school and community, and linking the school to other community resources.
  3. Fiscal planning, such as helping to raise funds for local programs and preparing grant applications.
  4. Education, such as initiating policies related to smoking, alcohol use, and the sale of nutritious foods; and organizing school-wide health promotion events.
  5. Evaluation and accountability, such as ensuring that the school's health and physical education programs are achieving their goals, obtaining input from parents and school staff, and identifying health needs.

Beneficial functions of a School Health Council are summarized below.

Community-Community-School Health Councils:

  • are effective ways to improve student health and create healthy schools;
  • help schools meet their mandates and community expectations;
  • support school-health staffed programs;
  • re voluntary;
  • provide a way for community members to work together to accomplish more than they could alone;
  • make the most of community resources and assets;
  • reach more people within a community than a single institution could;
  • are more credible than individual organizations or citizens;
  • provide a forum for sharing information;
  • provide a range of advice and perspectives;
  • foster personal satisfaction and help members understand their roles in strengthening their community;
  • foster cooperation by building trust and consensus among grassroots organizations, community segments, and diverse citizens.

Adapted from Developing Effective Coalitions: An Eight-Step Guide by Larry Cohen, Nancy Baer, and Pam Satterwhite (Pleasant Hill, California: Contra Costa County Health Services Department of Prevention Program, Spring 1994).

Getting Started

At present, there exists a very limited number of quality resources to guide schools in the development of Community-School Health Councils. To date, the most comprehensive guide was created and published by Carol Hinton at the Iowa Department of Public Health. The following items have been adapted from this gold standard guide to Community-School Health Councils. The items below represent about 1% of the resources available in the full-text guide. For more information on ordering your own copy of the Community-School Health Council Guide and Disk, please visit the School Health Resources For All link on the Main Youth, Parents, and Communities Page.

Selected Resources from the Guide to Community-School Health Councils

  1. Membership: Who Should Be Invited To Participate? Membership on your Community-School Health Council should be as representative of your community as possible. Involve people with a broad variety of education, experience, opinion, economic level, gender, race, age, and ethnic background. Who are the key players in your community and school? Be sure to include the least powerful as well as the most powerful.
  2. Sample Invitation Letter
  3. Sample Agenda for the First Meeting
  4. Suggested Action Steps for a Community-School Health Council

These examples do not include all possible actions that a CSHC might take. They may prompt ideas for programs and services for students, their families, and school staff. Activities are based on the eight-part model discussed in the Introduction. The activities your Council selects depend upon local community needs and available resources.