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Keywords:

  • organization and administration of school health programs;
  • research;
  • professional preparation of school health personnel;
  • marketing and advocacy for coordinated school health programs

BACKGROUND: The purpose of this study was to detect and document common themes among success stories, along with challenges, as related by participants in the Michiana Coordinated School Health Leadership Institute. Four-member teams from 18 Michigan and Indiana school districts participated in semiannual Institute workshops over a 3-year period and were tasked with implementing Coordinated School Health Programs (CSHPs).

METHODS: Qualitative methods were used to generate themes from interviews. Data were gathered through a combined survey/interview process related to programmatic successes, evidence of success, and implementation challenges. One participant from 11 of 18 participating school districts completed the survey/interview.

RESULTS: Each participant reported at least 1 success that had a positive effect on students and/or staff, many of which were related to the federally mandated wellness policy. With some notable exceptions, success was based on subjective judgments rather than systematically collected data. Unanimous expression of time constraints and being overworked in their current positions constituted major challenges.

CONCLUSIONS: Although the Institute required only process evaluation, some participants collected outcome data, a task that is important in validating the benefits of CSHPs. Most districts were not able to hire the recommended coordinator to ensure implementation of health program planning initially developed during the institute. Encouragingly, at the time of data collection many teams were still acting to ensure health programming remained a priority. Nevertheless, without the network of social support provided by the Institute, some respondents struggled to maintain momentum.