At the onset of the committee's work, it became evident that a broad range of constituencies has become interested and involved in CSHPs, and a variety of conceptions exist about what these programs are and do. The committee itself represents a diversity of backgrounds and experiences, and determined that it would be useful to establish its own working definition of the term, “comprehensive school health program.” This interim statement sets forth the committee's definition; it is intended to serve as a guide for the rest of the committee's work and to stimulate discussion among those involved in the field.

WHY THE COMMITTEE NEEDED TO ESTABLISH ITS DEFINITION

The structure and operation of a comprehensive school health program have been contemplated, but few, if any, truly comprehensive programs have actually been implemented and institutionalized. The vision of what constitutes a comprehensive school health program continues to evolve, and several models and definitions for these programs have been proposed. Some definitions are conceptual and focus on the desired goals for these programs; others are operational and emphasize essential program processes or components. The committee acknowledges the contributions these various models and definitions have made and uses them as the starting point for its own definition. The committee believes that its definition—and the elaboration of key terms in its definition—will further clarify the nature and essential elements of these programs. Through this interim statement, the committee is also attempting to generate discussion in the education, health, and social services fields and to suggest a common language that might facilitate interactions across these fields.

THE CONTEMPORARY CONTEXT FOR THE DEFINITION

Interest in the education, health,1 and welfare of our nation's children and youth has reached a new level (National Commission on Children, 1991). Economically, children are the poorest segment of our citizenry,2 and infant

1  

The term “health” is used throughout this interim report in a broad sense to include optimal physical, mental, social, and emotional function, not just the absence of disease.

2

The following poverty rates existed in 1992: children under age 18, 21.9%; adults 18–64, 11.7%; adults 65 and older, 12.9% (National Research Council, 1995).



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