Schools as a Hub for Health
- Need: To improve health outcomes in rural Appalachian Ohio.
- Intervention: Schools as a Hub for Health promotes holistic wellness for the whole community by creating or bringing in programs that support physical, mental, and social health.
- Results: The project has gained administrator buy-in and was featured in a December 2016 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps webinar.
Athens County in rural Appalachian Ohio ranks #68 out of 88 counties in health outcomes due in part to high rates of adult obesity and smoking. Yet this county does very well in terms of education, as 94% of its students graduate from high school. The Athens Creating Healthy Communities Coalition used this emphasis on education to turn schools into a hub for health.
Schools as a Hub for Health is a learning community with multiple partners focusing on physical, mental, and social aspects of health. When local organizations were trying to find the best way to reach the county's population, they decided that schools could be the central location to provide community health programming and address health factors. School hubs target not only the students but also teachers, parents, and the larger community.
Project coordinators saw strengths in what the schools were already doing to address community needs, like providing dental sealants and offering healthier concessions options. The hub creates a space where schools can learn what other schools are doing, and coalition members can provide resources to help school districts overcome barriers preventing them from replicating other districts' programs.
The Athens Creating Healthy Communities Coalition is made up of around 20 key community partners and an additional 10-15 associated organizations. The coalition works to make "the healthy choice the easy choice" by creating policy, system, and environmental changes to eliminate tobacco use and increase access to healthy food and opportunities for physical activity.
The coalition was created by the Athens City-County Health Department through an Ohio Department of Health cardiovascular grant in 2001 and continues to be funded by the department.
The five school districts offer programs such as:
- Athens County Children Services (ACCS) School Outreach Caseworkers
- Dental sealants
- Healthy concessions options added to regular concessions menu
- Integrated mental health services
- Live Healthy Kids (LHK, a two-week exercise and healthy eating program) in all second grade classrooms
- School gardens
- School-based food pantry
- School-based Community Health Clinics
For this project, the biggest result seen so far is buy-in from the superintendents. Project coordinators say it was a huge accomplishment to have the superintendents sit down in the same room and discuss the strengths of their programs.
In addition, Schools as a Hub for Health was featured in a December 2016 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps webinar called Rankings in Action: Schools as a Hub for Health.
In the future, coordinators hope that the schools replicate one another's health programs and learn from one another, creating a hub-for-health environment.
Through discussions with school superintendents and staff, various barriers were identified that have kept them from being able to move forward with their health goals and program ideas:
- Finding sufficient funding for projects
- Finding enough time to train staff, coordinate their schedules, and implement the programs
- Getting people to schools so they can help with the programs (transportation issues)
- Recruiting staff to participate in programming, since their schedules are already busy
- Finding enough space for initiatives to take place
- Trying to take on too much at once (mission overreach)
The project began by surveying local organizations to determine which services were being offered in the schools and which projects were successful. Next, project coordinators brought the results of those surveys to school superintendents and scheduled an individual conference call with each superintendent to discuss the project, review the survey results, and determine each superintendent's level of commitment to the project.
Coordinators also discussed the superintendents' current projects and future goals as well as barriers for health programming in schools. This discussion allowed coordinators to familiarize themselves with schools' improvement plans so they could align their goals with the administrators'.
When they met with administrators, coordinators made sure to:
- Set a clear agenda for the meeting
- Value the administrators' time
- Allow superintendents to share their strengths
- Recognize that health may not be the administrators' top priority for their schools
- Help superintendents determine their own goals without being prescriptive
The ultimate goal of this project is for school districts to share with other schools the projects they are working on and the successes they have had in order to help them replicate the programs. A proposed way of accomplishing this is to get "health" as an agenda item on the superintendents' meetings to help facilitate cross-dialogue.
Contact InformationKari Boyle, CHES, Health Educator
Athens City-County Health Department
740.594.2370 Ext. 226
Children and youth
Community and faith-based initiatives
Wellness, health promotion, and disease prevention
March 3, 2017
Date updated or reviewed
March 2, 2018
Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.