Schools’ Roles in Public Health Crises

This entry is part 39 of 41 in the series Focus on Accreditation and Innovation

The purpose of the Center for School Health Innovation and Quality is to drive innovation in school health research and leadership so students in every community gain the tools needed to thrive in school and live healthy lives.

Think of the public health issues our country currently faces—health misinformation, burnout of health workers, the mental health of youth, loneliness, health inequities, e-cigarettes, opioids, and other substance abuse. Social factors such as food insecurity, lack of housing, and violence continue to plague society. All of these issues are being experienced by or directly impact youth. Since most youth attend schools for much of their waking day, schools are an important community public health partner. In fact, schools have been inundated with various programs and organizations that want to address one of the issues facing youth!

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the delivery of school health had not significantly changed for over 50 years, despite advances in medical care, changes in population health, and advances in technology. The crisis of the day would be addressed but without a look at the infrastructure for a more sustainable approach. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and ASCD developed the Whole School, Whole Child, Whole Community model, which coordinates ten components of school health: health education, physical education & activity, nutrition environment & services, health services, counseling, psychological & social services, social & emotional climate, physical environment, employee wellness, family engagement, and community involvement. Ideally, the components coordinate effort to meet the needs of the school. However, the funding streams of these components often differ, and efforts have been siloed. During the pandemic, society was forced to deliver care differently. As schools struggle to meet all the factors that impact youth’s ability to learn and thrive, we have an amazing opportunity to be innovative and do things differently.

The Center for School Health Innovation and Quality (C4SHIQ), incubated at the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB), was created by a group of school health researchers because no single organization is dedicated to the health of the whole school-age child population or the specialty of school health (particularly school nursing) research. The purpose of the Center is to drive innovation in school health research and leadership so students in every community gain the tools needed to thrive in school and live healthy lives. The C4SHIQ’s three pillars of work include:

  • Reimagine School Health. Through a grant from Opportunity Labs, we are investigating how sharing data across agencies can facilitate schools being part of the larger community network for youth. We are also identifying ways for data to be more easily used to inform daily practices and measure the impact of school health programs, particularly identifying inequities in care. The project includes finding solutions that leverage electronic health record systems and other technology. Funding from the Maine Department of Education is allowing the Center to study the school health workforce in the state and to develop a 3-to-5-year roadmap for a modern, school health program.
  • Innovate and research. With support from the Moses Taylor Foundation, a think tank was convened by the Center to investigate innovative funding models for school nursing. An environmental scan and key informant interviews were also conducted to identify inventive school delivery services models, as well as how to retain full-time and substitute school nurses. The results of the project, including exemplars, will be shared to help all schools.
  • Promote leadership. The C4SHIQ hosts a yearly summit for school nurse leaders to address current topics such as COVID burnout, partnerships between practice and researchers, and how to advocate for change. We are investigating more sustainable programs that will guide school districts in how to develop strong, coordinated school health programs.

The focus of the C4SHIQ’s work is to reinvent school health and school nursing practice to better serve all students, with a special focus on students from underserved groups. It is what our youth need and deserve.

The C4SHIQ is housed in the Public Health National Center for Innovations (PHNCI), which is part of the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB). Learn more on the Center for School Health Innovation and Quality webpage or email

Erin Maughan, PhD, MS, RN, PHNA-BC, FNASN, FAAN, Executive Director, has over 22 years of experience as a frontline school nurse, the state school and adolescent school nurse consultant for the Utah Department of Health, and as a school nurse researcher. As the former Director of Research at the National Association of School Nurses, she co-led the development of a national uniform data set for school nurses, identification of school nurse indicators, and the creation of NASN’s Framework for 21st Century School Nursing Practice™. She is certified as an advanced public health nurse and serves as the executive director for the Center of School Health Innovation & Quality and is an associate professor at George Mason University. She currently sits on the World Health Organization’s UNICEF & UNESCO joint Technical Advisory Group of Experts on Educational Institutions and COVID-19 and has provided consultation related to school health to the WHO’s office in Sierra Leone. Throughout her career, Dr. Maughan has studied and provided consultation on issues related to school health infrastructure and policy. She has expertise in online survey development and implementation, as well as conducting focus groups and key informant interviews. She has received honors for her vast experience, publications, and presentations at the local, national, and international level. Dr. Maughan is a Fellow of the Johnson and Johnson School Health Program, the National Academy of School Nursing, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and American Academy of Nursing. 

Series Navigation<< Celebrating 10 Years of PHAB Accreditation with the First CohortThe PHAB Center for Innovation’s 21st Century Learning Community: Transformation Priorities >>

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