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Over the Summer and Fall of 2011, more than 150 health professionals, health researchers, parents and school health champions answered an online survey. The survey asked stakeholders about:
- Current health initiatives in schools
- Perceptions about student health, role of schools in health, role of academic researchers in informing school health decisions, and use of data in school decision making
- Perceived challenges to conducting health research in schools
- Perceived challenges to utilizing results of school health research to inform school decision making
- Research interests that address health concerns, programs, populations, policies and environments
- Preferred dissemination & communication channels for research results
- Priority data needs
What do the university researchers think?
When 24 experienced researchers from the University of Washington Schools of Medicine, Public Health, Social Work, Dentistry and Pharmacy and the College of Education were asked about their experiences with school-health research:
- The most common reason for wanting to do research on health in schools was that children’s health sets the foundation for lifelong health.
- Thirteen of the 24 had done research in Seattle Schools; Three researchers thought that their research findings had improved student health in the district.
- Nine had reported their findings to the specific schools they had worked with, and six had reported to district leaders; informal conversations were the most common way of communicating research findings, but some researchers also gave presentations and sent copies of research articles.
- Nine thought that they had reported their research findings in language that was easy for the public to understand.
- Researchers reported a wide range of experiences about the process of conducting research in the schools; many reported challenges in the approval processes and with communications with district personnel.
What do the district’s administrators, teachers, nurses, and parents, and think?
Seventy three of the survey respondents represented district stakeholders (43 teachers, 8 administrators, 10 nurses, and 3 counselors; with 18 of this group identifying as parents). Among this group:
- All agreed that children’s health is essential for achieving success in school.
- Forty one thought that external researchers are committed to improving student health.
- Fifty felt that they learned from participating in research, and no one disagreed with the statement that “research on student health has practical value for our work with students.”
- In terms of communication of research findings, 40 felt that researchers usually share their results with the district; 24 felt that researchers provided timely information about results, and 38 thought that researchers use language that is easy to understand. The two most common methods of sharing were through email and presentations.
- In terms of application of research results, 42 felt that the district had made important changes based on research; 33 felt that research has improved student health in the district.
These findings are guiding the Collaborative Research Partnership project team in determining common areas of interest among stakeholder groups. This will allow the team to identify priority research areas and sustainable approaches for conducting and applying relevant school health research.