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.
Schools as a Hub for Health, created by the Athens County
Creating Healthy Communities Coalition, 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 County 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, systems, 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 state department's Creating Healthy Communities
The five school districts offer programs such as:
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
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
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' goals.
When they met with administrators, coordinators made sure
- 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
Meredith Erlewine, Creating Healthy Communities Coordinator
Athens City-County Health Department
Children and youth
Community and faith-based initiatives
Wellness, health promotion, and disease prevention
March 3, 2017
Date updated or reviewed
May 23, 2023
Suggested citation: Rural Health Information Hub,
Schools as a Hub for Health [online]. Rural Health Information Hub. Available at:
[Accessed 29 November 2023]
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.