Step 1: Gather Your TeamPrint Page
School health teams come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and names (such as school health councils or wellness committees). But they all have a common goal: to rally forces to make schools healthier places for students. Research shows that schools with a wellness team that meets at least once per year have more students at a healthy weight. And having an active wellness team is associated with more healthy nutrition habits, such as students eating fewer sugary foods.
Ready to start one?
We recommend your school health team have between three and ten members, including any of the following: parents, teachers, administrators, food service personnel, P.E. teachers, school nurses, family engagement coordinators, students, and community members. Together, you’ll identify primary health concerns, lead projects that promote healthy habits, raise funds, celebrate successful health initiatives, and develop resources to help others replicate your efforts.
Before getting started, see where you might want to focus your attention this year by taking the 3-minute School Health Survey.
Steps to Building a School Health Team
- Find out if any wellness-oriented groups already exist and join their efforts. Or, see if health and wellness can be added to an existing group, such as the PTA/PTO or school improvement team.
- If there isn’t an existing health team, start your own. Identify more champions to join you, and build on their energy, passion and expertise. Your team should be creative, committed, passionate, and determined to face challenges head on. The optimal team consists of at least five individuals, including a parent and a school administrator.
- Understand your school wellness policy. Take time to review the existing school wellness policy to familiarize your team with requirements and goals. Read this case study to learn how Game On can be used to implement district wellness policies.
- Develop an “elevator pitch.” In two minutes (or two sentences) or less, be able to describe why you want to create a health team, what types of activities the team will undertake, and what kind of time commitment will be necessary.
- Get the principal’s approval. A supportive principal or assistant principal is essential to your efforts. A principal who participates on the team is ideal.
- Invite school staff, parents, students and community members to join the team. Inspire them to participate by making the case for school wellness and creating a sense of urgency about the state of children’s health and its link to student achievement. Use local statistics, personal stories and examples from your own school to make your case.
- Meet at least four times per school year.
Recruiting Team Members
Keep these tips in mind as you recruit staff, students, parents and community members to join the team:
- Recruit stakeholders who represent the diversity of your community and have a deep understanding of the culture, norms and dynamics of your community.
- Include key players/influencers in the school.
- Make sure team members can commit the time.
- Remember that not everyone needs to be a leader — supporters are just as important to your team’s success.
- Invite student input and participation. Consider creating more than one student health team member position to have consistent student representation.
Developing a Vision
At first your meeting, have your team write a vision statement that defines what your school will look like if you achieve all of your goals.
Sample: “ABC Elementary students will learn how to make healhty choices and be physically active throughout the school day so they are better prepared to learn.”
- Plan meetings at convenient times for all committee members
- Create a warm and welcoming environment.
- Offer opportunities for conversation and interaction.
- Follow a focused agenda (like this one), and limit side topics
- Accomplish as much as possible with emails and phone calls.
- Consider forming subcommittees to work on different projects or focus areas.
- Each meeting, give opportunities for leadership for other team members to foster buy-in. For example, task other team members to recruit new team members, lead special projects, look for fundraising options, take/send/prepare meeting notes, recruit volunteers, etc.
Get Families on Board
Do you want parents or family members on your wellness team? Help them dip their toes into the school health pool with resources and ideas from Parents for Healthy Kids.