School Health Profiles Survey – A Spotlight on School Health Policies and Practices

By Wendy Hamilton, School Health Program Manager /Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Alaska Division of Public Health

Have you ever wondered what percentage of secondary schools sell candy in vending machines, school stores or snack bars? It’s 12%, down from 54% in 2002![1]

Did you know in 49% of school students take only one required health education course in grades 6-12?

How about only 17% of secondary schools have a full-time registered nurse who provides health services to students?

These important indicators of school health–and many more–are surveyed in the biennial School Health Profiles surveys (aka Profiles), conducted in Alaska every even year since 1996 by the Department of Education and Early Development and the Department of Health and Social Services.

The School Health Profiles are Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) surveys used to monitor the status of school health policies and practices in grades 6-12 nationwide. Topic areas include: health education, physical education, and physical activity, nutrition environment, professional development, school-based health services, tobacco use prevention, family engagement, community involvement, and others.

The Profiles consist of two separate surveys, one for principals and one for health teachers. The two surveys ask different questions about school health policies and practices.  Both surveys are administered using Survey Monkey for ease and convenience.

In December 2019 the Department of Health and Social Services will be contacting 239 secondary school principals in every district throughout the state asking them to participate in the Principal survey and provide the name of the best person at their school to take the Health Teacher survey.

In January 2020 the School Health Profiles will begin full administration throughout the state and run through April. A minimum response rate of 70% must be achieved to ensure the validity and reliability of the data.

Regular nationwide assessment of school health policies and practices is necessary to understand the school health landscape in these important domains. Survey results help identify successes in school health as well as areas for improvement, and can be used to inform decision makers at both governmental and community agencies. 

The survey results are completely anonymous; all school, school district and employee information is kept confidential. The final reports consist of combined statewide data and are posted both on the CDC Profiles website and the Alaska School Health Profiles website.

The School Health Profiles trend data shows us whether we are going in the right direction in increasing the number of school health-related policies and practices that assist the mission of the Alaska School Health Program: “to promote and support all domains of school and student health and to provide and create conditions where every student can reach his/her potential physically, emotionally, mentally and academically.” 

Healthy students do better academically.[2] Healthy students have lower absenteeism rates, fewer behavioral issues, and higher graduation rates. The School Health Profiles results provide valuable information to guide Alaska on the journey toward creating healthy, successful students.

[1] All indicators are from the Alaska 2018 School Health Profiles Trend Report

[2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). Health-Related Behaviors and Academic Achievement Among High School Students — United States, 2015. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 66 (35).

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The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Association of Alaska School Boards. AASB welcomes diverse perspectives and civil discourse. To submit a Guest Column for consideration, see our Guest Column Guidelines and email your 400-1000 word submission HERE.