Education is a critical social determinant of health. Studies have shown that poor health can put education at risk – kids with poor health tend to have higher absenteeism rates, lower academic achievement and can experience educational setbacks that interfere with schooling. Conversely, education creates opportunities for better health – adults with more education tend to have better jobs, live in healthier neighborhoods and have better access to resources that contribute to better health.

Understanding this important intersection, RESOLVE has been working with Children's National Hospital since 2019 to promote "school-friendly" hospitals and health systems.

Our vision of a school-friendly health system is one designed to ensure allchildren reach optimal health and achieve their full academic potential.

We conducted dozens of interviews with expert stakeholders, including pediatricians, educators, health system and school administrators, school nurses, parents and guardians, community health workers and other experts to assess the field's perception of what it looks like to be a school-friendly health system (SFHS). We gathered additional input through online surveys and roundtables with, among others, Children's Hospital Association, American School Health Association, American Federation of Teachers, and American Academy of Pediatrics.

Synthesizing all of this input, Children's National released the 5 Core Principles of a SFHS in 2021. These principles focus on the role of the hospital and health care delivery system, and the initiatives it can partner on with school systems, that contribute to a child's health and academic success. The SFHS principles reflect a broad range of competencies, practices, and policy positions that health care and school health experts and stakeholders view as emblematic of a SFHS – some already practiced, some aspirational:

  • AWARENESS: Familiar with, and responsive to, the culture, politics, and needs of the school systems and student populations they serve.
  • ALL TOUCHPOINTS APPROACH: Consider how they can support children's academic outcomes at all touchpoints, including patient visits, program development, and policy advocacy.
  • ACCESSIBILITY: Provide accessible health services in a way that limits disruption of students' typical school experience as much as possible.
  • FAMILY ENGAGEMENT: Collaborate with parents, guardians, and families effectively, understanding that these are the most important conduits between health systems and schools.
  • ACCOUNTABILITY: Include academic-related outcomes among their organizational priorities and set metrics and incentives that align with those priorities

This year, the SFHS initiative has been featured at the Hospital Educator and Academic Liaison (HEAL) Association Annual Conference and American Hospital Association Accelerating Health Equity Conference, and we will be presenting at the 2022 National School-Based Health Care Conference on July 27.

Children's National and RESOLVE now plan to support a national cohort of hospitals, health systems, and health clinics in piloting the SFHS framework, putting the principles into practice. Each participating organization will develop and implement a 24-month plan to institutionalize one or more of the SFHS principles using shared planning, evaluation, and documentation tools. Pilot participants will convene at least quarterly to exchange experiences, challenges, and solutions and learn from independent experts. Seven hospitals and a community health clinic have expressed interest in participating as a potential site including, Children's National (Washington, DC), Children's Mercy (Kansas City, MO), Children's Hospital & Medical Center (Omaha, NE), Children's Wisconsin (Milwaukee, WI), Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center (Cincinnati, OH), Mary's Center (Washington, DC) and St. Luke's Children's Hospital (Boise, ID).

If you are interested in participating or learning more, please reach out to

Mason Hines