Background: Few evaluations of school health programs measure academic outcomes. K-12 education needs evidence for academic achievement to implement school programs. This article presents a systematic review of the literature to examine evidence that school health programs aligned with the Coordinated School Health Program (CSHP) model improve academic success.
Methods: A multidisciplinary panel of health researchers searched the literature related to academic achievement and elements of the CSHP model (health services, counseling/social services, nutrition services, health promotion for staff, parent/family/community involvement, healthy school environment, physical education, and health education) to identify scientifically rigorous studies of interventions. Study designs were classified according to the analytic framework provided in the Guide developed by the Community Preventive Services Task Force.
Results: The strongest evidence from scientifically rigorous evaluations exists for a positive effect on some academic outcomes from school health programs for asthmatic children that incorporate health education and parental involvement. Strong evidence also exists for a lack of negative effects of physical education programs on academic outcomes. Limited evidence from scientifically rigorous evaluations support the effect of nutrition services, health services, and mental health programs, but no such evidence is found in the literature to support the effect of staff health promotion programs or school environment interventions on academic outcomes.
Conclusions: Scientifically rigorous evaluation of school health programs is challenging to conduct due to issues related to sample size, recruitment, random assignment to condition, implementation fidelity, costs, and adequate follow-up time. However, school health programs hold promise for improving academic outcomes for children.