Step 1: Gather Your TeamPrint Page
The Power of School Health Teams
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 children. We recommend your school health team have between five and ten members, representative of your school, and the families or community you serve. Together, you’ll identify primary health concerns, design, and lead projects that promote healthy habits, raise funds, celebrate successful health initiatives, and develop resources to help others replicate your efforts. Building school health teams is a crucial step in uniting school staff, parents and families to come together to create healthier environments for our children.
Building Your Team
“No meaningful family engagement can be established until relationships of trust and respect are established between home and school. A focus on relationship building is especially important in circumstances where there has been a history of mistrust between families and school or district staff, or where negative past experiences or feelings of intimidation hamper the building of partnerships between staff and parents.” – Partners in Education, A Dual Capacity-Building Framework for Family-School Partnerships, SEDL, 2013
At the foundation of successful school health teams are strong family-school partnerships. Family-school partnerships bring together stakeholders at all levels within the community to identify barriers to family engagement and specific child health needs, then develop, implement, and evaluate effective and equitable solutions as a team.
- Build a foundation of trust. Seek out input from parents and caregivers – and be prepared to listen and incorporate their feedback – about their cultures, concerns, needs, and relationships with schools. The responsibility to open communication with families falls directly onto school staff and leaders. Conversations with parents and other school staff should emphasize that every stakeholder has a different role to play in children’s health both at school and at home. Be ready to adapt your programs and ideas to build mutual trust among school staff and parents and caregivers, which will lead to strong, lasting relationships between schools and families.
- Leverage existing momentum. Determine if you can expand on an existing wellness-oriented group or develop a plan to start your own. 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.
- Discover a mutual platform and identify champions. Parents, caregivers, teachers, and school staff want the best for their children and students, and individually (and collectively) have the power and capacity to create a world where they can thrive. Understand what drives each person and ensure that your team represents the diversity of your community and has a deep understanding of the culture, norms, and dynamics. Acknowledge gaps in representation, evaluate recruitment strategies, and identify strategies to elevate the voices of community members who may not be able to make a regular commitment at this time.
Leading Your Team
Now that you have your team in place, build a foundation of understanding, and organize a meeting structure that supports and inspires members.
- Create an inclusive and supportive environment. Develop meeting norms and group guidelines that honor everyone’s unique identity and experiences. Get to know everyone by name and preferred pronouns and develop best practices for supporting diverse communication styles.
- Develop a vision. At your first meeting, have your team write a vision statement that defines what your community will look like if you achieve all of your goals. From there, create a team charter – a document that outlines your goals, project ideas, and details for how to begin implementing. Cast the net wide and brainstorm a running list of ideas. As you begin to assess your school (step 2), you can then use those results to refine your list and identify priorities.
- Understand your school wellness policy. Take time to review the existing school wellness policy to familiarize your team with requirements and goals.
- Conduct successful meetings. Use our Guide to Successful School Health Team Meetings to set up meetings in a way that best supports your team. Meet at least four times per school year but aim for a frequency that fully supports your project or plans and meets the unique scheduling needs of members.
- Collaborating for Healthier Schools: AFHK Collaboration Guide (Action for Healthy Kids)
- Building Representative School Health Teams (Action for Healthy Kids)
- Guide to School Health Team Meetings (Action for Healthy Kids)
Just starting out or looking for new inspiration? Hear what’s happening at AFHK, learn from community members, and discover ways to make change happen over at our Healthy Kids Blog.