In a new article published in the October 2013 issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health, researchers from the UC Berkeley School of Social Welfare, the University of Denver School of Social Work, ETR and the San Francisco Wellness Initiative – a collaboration of the San Francisco Unified School District, the Department of Children, Youth, and Their Families and the Department of Public Health – reveal solid evidence that participation in school wellness services significantly increases youth development assets — characteristics of the school environment that have been directly linked to improved attendance and academic success.
The study The Relationship Between Use of School-Based Health Centers and Student-Reported School Assets is one of the first of its kind to examine the relationship between use of school-based health and wellness services and school-based assets.
The research shows that, relative to comparison groups of students who do not participate in wellness services, students who use any wellness services report statistically-significant increases in school assets – even those who visit just one or two times. Findings also indicate that students who visit their wellness center more frequently report higher assets.
Significantly, students with the highest risk factors who participate in services most frequently report the highest school assets scores and experience the strongest caring relationships with adults in the wellness centers.
A summary of the key research findings, Our Impact on School-Based Youth Development Assets, appears on the Wellness Initiative website.
“There is an urgent need to clarify how school-based wellness services support student academic functioning, and this research represents an exciting step in the process,” said Susan Stone, lead author of the study and Berkeley Social Welfare Hutto Professor of Social Services in Public Education. “It is gratifying to work with the Wellness Initiative to build knowledge about how their practices link to student academic success.”
One SFUSD high school student noted, “Whenever I come into the Wellness Center, I feel safe and calm in an environment where I know people care about me. It’s like a house and we are all family.” Another student remarked, “I am relieved to finally be able to have a caring adult who I can talk to honestly and someone I can rely on for help.”
SFUSD Superintendent Richard Carranza adds, “Though we’ve known that having Wellness Centers at schools makes a difference for youth, this is the strongest evidence we have to date of the positive impact our Wellness Centers have for San Francisco’s public high school students. The study also shows we are having the greatest impact on the very students who need the most support to succeed in school.”