The Year Ahead for the National Collaborative on Education and Health

May 24, 2016

Since its launch in February 2014, the National Collaborative on Education and Health has brought together more than 140 stakeholders representing more than 100 organizations from across the country to develop and implement strategies that support the success and well-being of students across the country.

The National Collaborative, which Healthy Schools Campaign co-chairs with Trust for America’s Health (TFAH), has catalyzed key changes in federal, state and local policies and programs, including the launch of the U.S. Department of Education’s Every Student, Every Day initiative and Healthy Students, Promising Futures, a joint effort led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Education.

As we look forward to the coming year, which will include a change in Administration and the implementation of a new education law, we expect the Collaborative to play an increasingly important role in ensuring student health and wellness are prioritized. In April, the National Collaborative’s steering committee met to set the priorities for the National Collaborative’s third year of work. As a result of these discussions, the committee decided that key focus areas of will include:

  • Implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA): ESSA presents a new and important opportunity to more fully integrate student health into education policy and practice. The Collaborative will play an important role in ensuring healthy schools and student health and wellness are supported through ESSA implementation. This will include supporting the development of strong guidance around the health-promoting provisions of ESSA.
  • Health systems transformation: Increasing access to school health services has been a key focus of the Collaborative’s work and will continue to be in the coming year. Moving forward, this work will primarily focus on supporting implementation of the December 2014 reversal of the free care policy, which presents a tremendous opportunity for increasing access to school health services for students across the country. The Collaborative will convene a small group of states and school districts committed to implementing this change to identify and disseminate best practices.
  • Mental health: The need to prevent and address mental health disorders among children has emerged as a key theme throughout the Collaborative’s work. Given that one in five children have a diagnosable mental health problem, there is a critical need to identify and implement evidence-based strategies in schools that support the social and emotional wellness of students. As a result, the Collaborative will convene a mental health working group that will explore strategies to promote more widespread adoption of best practices for promoting social and emotional wellness in schools.
  • Chronic absenteeism: Chronic absenteeism will continue to be a key focus of the Collaborative moving forward. Given that ESSA includes chronic absenteeism as a required school report card metric for Title I schools and the launch of the Every Student, Every Day initiative, the Collaborative’s work will include developing and disseminating tools on the connection between health and chronic absenteeism and supporting the Every Student, Every Day summit which will take place in summer 2016.
  • Blueprint for a Healthier America: The Collaborative has the opportunity to develop and integrate recommendations for supporting school health into TFAH’s Blueprint for Healthier America, a policy guide that TFAH develops for each change in Administration. This will provide an opportunity to ensure the lessons learned through the Collaborative’s work to date are integrated into these policy recommendations and shared with the next administration.

As the National Collaborative moves into its third year of work, we look forward to building on its successes and continuing to share the group’s work and highlight the lessons and strategies learned.