Background: The specific health services provided to students at school and the model for delivering these services vary across districts and schools. This article describes the characteristics of school health services in the United States, including state- and district-level policies and school practices.
Methods: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducts the School Health Policies and Programs Study (SHPPS) every 6 years. In 2006, computer-assisted telephone interviews or self-administered mail questionnaires were completed by state education agency personnel in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia and among a nationally representative sample of school districts (n=449). Computer-assisted personal interviews were conducted with personnel in a nationally representative sample of elementary, middle, and high schools (n=1029).
Results: Most US schools provided basic health services to students, but relatively few provided prevention services or more specialized health services. Although state- and district-level policies requiring school nurses or specifying maximum nurse-to-student ratios were relatively rare, 86.3% of schools had at least a part-time school nurse, and 52.4% of these schools, or 45.1% of all schools, had a nurse-to-student ratio of at least 1:750.
Conclusions: SHPPS 2006 suggests that the breadth of school health services can and should be improved, but school districts need policy, legislative, and fiscal support to make this happen. Increasing the percentage of schools with sufficient school nurses is a critical step toward enabling schools to provide more services, but schools also need to enhance collaboration and linkages with community resources if schools are to be able to meet both the health and academic needs of students.