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The Effects of Schools and School Environment Interventions on Health: Evidence Mapping and Synthesis
£8,414, National Institute for Health Research: Centre for Reviews and Dissemination. 1/06/10 → 30/11/11. What are the effects of school environment (SE) interventions, and of school-level influences, on the health and well-being of students, staff, parents and the local community, and how can this inform the development and implementation of future interventions? Schools can significantly affect the mental and physical health of students and staff (and perhaps parents and the local community). Some projects, called ‘school-environment’ projects try to change the way schools are run to promote health. They do so by a variety of methods which go beyond just telling students what is healthy and what isn’t. They might involve: working with staff and students to change school policies for example on bullying or smoking; providing staff with training on how to re-engage students who don’t like school; improving catering; encouraging staff and students to walk or cycle to school; and encouraging students to take on new responsibilities such as becoming ‘mediators’ to combat bullying. Some research studies suggest these ‘school-environment’ projects can bring benefits for students such as reduced violence and drug use, increased physical activity and healthy eating. Some research also suggests that, even in the absence of these ‘school-environment’ projects, some schools simply have healthier students than others. These differences can’t be explained away simply because the schools admit different sorts of students or are in different sorts of neighbourhoods. The differences seem to reflect how the schools are run and the quality of relationships between students and staff. But we also know that the picture is complicated: some projects that try to make schools healthier places don’t work. And some health issues, like obesity, don’t always seem to vary much between schools. To decide what sorts of actions schools in the UK should take to improve health, we need to be clear about what existing research tells us. We need information on the benefits (and perhaps the harms) that specific ‘school-environment’ projects have brought about, how these projects were carried out, whether they were acceptable to students and staff, and how much they cost. We also want to know what it is about some schools that make them healthier than other schools even in the absence of a specific 'school-environment' project. This isn’t an easy task because the projects are given all sorts of different names, and published all over the world in all sorts of publications. We want to undertake a comprehensive search for these studies. We will do this using online and other computer-based methods, as well as reading through scientific journals and asking experts in this field. We will then judge which studies have been done well so that they provide the most accurate information. Finally, we will summarise what this research tells us and then recommend what actions UK schools and the government should take in the light of what we find.
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