Elev8 Initiative Strategies Facilitate Successful Implementation of School-Based Health Centers

Research has shown that school-based health centers (SBHCs) can effectively address health needs that affect students’ participation and success in school. However, many SBHCs are operated by health partners rather than schools and, as a result, face challenges when a hosting school and external health provider attempt to collaborate. This report highlights the strategies and structures that the Elev8 initiative successfully employed to improve the working relationship between SBHCs, schools, and communities.

What We Did

Elev8 initiative is a school- and community-based service and support model conceived and funded primarily by The Atlantic Philanthropies. We drew on insights gathered from three years of observations and more than 30 interviews conducted as part of our implementation evaluation of the Elev8 initiative in Chicago.

What We Found

At the end of the second year of implementation, Elev8 stakeholders reported that students, parents, and school staff had a high level of satisfaction with the health component of the initiative. The SBHCs were credited with identifying important medical problems in students, connecting them to services, and sharing important health information.

Three key structural supports and strategies were offered through the Elev8 initiative:

  • Establishment of health committees
  • Use of a health consultant
  • Employment of a health coordinator

Elev8 stakeholders said these supports and strategies improved connections between the school and health center staff and increased the use of physical and behavioral health services. These approaches raised the profile of the health center and health activities in each school, and mutually benefited school and health center staff.

What It Means

The Elev8 initiative was structured to improve and sustain the working relationship between schools, medical providers, and community stakeholders. As a result, insights from the Elev8 initiative may help SBHCs in other settings.

The supports provided by the Elev8 initiative do not address all of the challenges to the stable operation and long-term success of SBHCs. However, there is evidence that they provided valuable contributions to health programs that were successful in serving a range of important health needs for students—and, increasingly, community residents—and for strengthening the ability of individuals and organizations to address inevitable changes and challenges.

Recommended Citation
Baker, S., Rich, L., Wojnarowski, M., & Meehan, P. (2013). Implementing successful school-based health centers: Lessons from the Chicago Elev8 Initiative. Chicago: Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago.
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