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School Health Index (SHI)

There is no single way to implement the SHI. Schools have developed many approaches, and you need to find the approach that meets your school’s needs. The most essential thing to remember is that completing the SHI should be a group effort. The strength of the process comes from having individuals from different parts of the school community sit down together and plan ways to work toward improving school policies and programs. The connections that develop among SHI participants are among the most important outcomes of the process.

Methods of Using the SHI

Several methods are available for using the SHI. All the methods are equally effective and you need to decide which one is best for your school. The SHI is available in the following forms:

This method is interactive and customizable. You can select the topics you want to include in your SHI and have your team members log in and participate. See Participate Online.

Paper Formats
The SHI is also available in the paper formats described below. To use any of the paper formats, see Participate Using a Paper Format.

PDF download. A downloadable version of the SHI is available. The downloaded SHI includes all the SHI health topics.

Customizable Paper SHI. You can select and print only the topics you want to include in your SHI.

By order. You can place an order for a copy of the SHI. The SHI you receive will include all the health topics.


1. Review modules
2. Assemble team
3. Identify a team coordinator
4. Meet with team
5. Complete modules
6. Complete overall score card
7. Review score card and improvement plan


1. Review the eight modules.

Habits and practices related to health and safety are influenced by the entire school environment. That's why the SHI has eight different modules that correspond to the eight components of a Coordinated School Health Program (CSHP) as defined by CDC. Be sure to review these modules before starting the process of completing your SHI.

The eight modules are:

  1. School Health and Safety Policies and Environment
  2. Health Education
  3. Physical Education and Other Physical Activity Programs
  4. Nutrition Services
  5. Health Services
  6. Counseling, Psychological, and Social Services
  7. Health Promotion for Staff
  8. Family and Community Involvement

See the online glossary for definitions of the these terms.

Coordinated School Health Model: Health Education; Physical Education; Health Services; Nutrition Services; Counseling, Psychological, and Social Services; Healthy School Environment; Health Promotion for Staff; Family and Community Involvement.

Back to Steps

2. Assemble the SHI team.

Your first step toward a healthier and safer school is to identify a team of people who will be responsible for completing the SHI. You may choose to create a new team; use an existing team, such as the school health council; or create a new subcommittee of the school management council. Broad and diverse participation is important for meaningful assessment and successful planning and implementation.

Below are key people who you may want to invite to join the SHI team. You may want to include people from your school community and people from your local community.

Possible members from the school community:

  • Principal, Assistant Principal
  • Physical education teacher
  • Health education teacher
  • Classroom teacher
  • Student
  • School food service manager
  • School counselor
  • School psychologist or social worker
  • School nurse
  • Bus driver
  • Janitor or custodial worker
  • Facility and maintenance staff

Possible members from the local community:

  • Parent or other family member
  • Community-based health care and social services provider
  • Community health organization representative, e.g., American
  • Cancer Society (ACS)
  • Local health department staff member

Getting support for the use of the SHI from school administrators greatly improves commitment to the process of completing the SHI and implementing the School Health Improvement Plan. School and district-level administrators can give the SHI team the power to implement identified changes.

Back to Steps

3. Identify a coordinator for the SHI team.

The identity of the SHI coordinator varies from school to school. Many schools have found that it is best to have someone from outside the school facilitate the SHI process. This person might be, for example, a retired health educator, a community-based dietitian, a professor at a local university, a graduate student, or a volunteer at a community-based health organization. Because they are removed from school politics, these individuals are neutral and can help the staff deal with internal conflicts. A SHI coordinator is

  • A skilled group facilitator who can keep meeting participants on task while making them feel good about their participation,
  • An excellent listener who does not attempt to impose his or her own opinions on the group, and
  • An individual who is highly respected by all participants and by the school administration.

Back to Steps

4. Meet with all members of the SHI team.

Explain the SHI and its purposes to the team. Use the Master Transparencies of the Sample Agenda [pdf 330K] to help plan your team's first meeting. Encourage team members to answer all questions as accurately as possible. Make sure they understand that results will not be used for punishing schools or comparing your school to other schools.

Ensure that all team members understand the importance of healthy behaviors for young people. Team members should understand that their work on the SHI can make a great difference in the lives of your school's students.

It is important to emphasize to the team that the purpose of the SHI is not to find out if the school is "passing" or "failing" or to compare your school with others. Rather, the purpose of the SHI is to help the school identify the strengths and weaknesses of its policies and programs for promoting health and safety and develop a plan for improvement.

Back to Steps

5. Complete the score cards and planning questions for each module.

Complete the Score Cards and Planning Questions for each module. The SHI is structured around CDC's eight-component model of a Coordinated School Health Program (CSHP). The discussion questions are displayed in eight modules according to the topics you selected. The modules correspond to the CSHP's eight components. Cross-cutting questions will always appear, regardless of the topics you have selected. See Sample Score Card for Elementary Schools [pdf 310K] and Sample Score Card for Middle/High Schools [pdf 310K].

Decide if you want to participate using the online version or the paper version.

  • If you decide you want to complete the SHI interactively online, see Participate Online to create an account and an SHI for your team. After creating the account, distribute the login information to the team members. Members of your team can log into the system at any time by using the account information to answer the discussion questions assigned to them or to perform other tasks. Before creating an account, please review the SHI Privacy Information.
  • If you decide to use one of the paper formats, see Participate Using a Paper Format where you will be able to download a PDF, order a hard copy, or customize and print a copy.

Decide how you want to implement the SHI.

  • Some schools have their entire SHI team stay together to do the entire self-assessment, sometimes in just one meeting.
  • Others form sub-teams of two or more people to work on each of the eight modules. It is very important to have at least two people work on each module,  because having more than one person involved will increase accuracy and elicit a variety of creative insights for improving school policies and programs.

Answer the discussion questions. Read through the questions carefully and select the answer that best describes your school. If a question does not apply to your school, you can designate it as not applicable. If you are not sure or need more information before you can answer the question, you can skip the question and return to it at another time. You do not have to answer all the questions in a module.

Back to Steps

6. Complete the overall score card.

Collect each module Score Card, and transfer the scores to the Overall Score Card (located in the Planning for Improvement section). Make copies of the completed Overall Score Card for every SHI team member.

7. Meet with all SHI team members to review score cards and create school health improvement plan.

Meet again with the team and do the following:

  • Review the Score Cards for each module.
  • Discuss the identified strengths and weaknesses.
  • Discuss the recommended actions in each module.
  • Review the overall Score Card.
  • Have all participants work together to identify the top priority actions for the entire school.
  • Complete the School Health Improvement Plan. This involves setting 3 to 5 priority actions, discussing the resources needed, discussing the action steps, assigning responsibilities, setting timelines for the actions, and deciding how to present the plan to the school leadership and community.
  • Discuss how you will monitor progress and when the team will meet again.

Use the Master Transparencies of the Sample Agenda [pdf 330K] to help plan your team's second meeting.

Back to Steps

Documents on this page are available in Portable Document Format (PDF). Learn more about viewing and printing these documents with Acrobat Reader.

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Page last reviewed: December 6, 2006
Page last modified: December 6, 2006
Content source: National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division of Adolescent and School Health

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
Division of Adolescent and School Health