Document Type

Master's Culminating Experience

Publication Date



Background: Federal and state governmental activities have significantly influenced schools’ health education practices over the past 50 years. Evaluation of these initiatives in the scientific literature has enhanced development of health education and influenced the creation of the National Health Education Standards (NHES). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducts periodic surveys to evaluate the impact of state and local policies on school health education programs and practices.

Objectives: This research project reviews and analyzes state health education policies for the 50 states plus the District of Columbia with regard to the recommendations of the NHES. It also evaluates state education agency websites for accessibility of health education standards and related information.

Methods: I conducted an internet-based review of current state policies regarding health education standards, their correlation with the NHES, instructional time requirements, and health educator qualifications. I scored the strength of states’ policies using an original scoring matrix to evaluate these four health education policy criteria. I also evaluated states’ websites for accessibility to health education standards and policies.

Results: Forty-nine states have adopted health education standards of which 27 fully correlate with the NHES. Only one state had a policy that quantified health education instructional time for elementary schools that met NHES recommendations. States with the strongest health education policies were characterized by mandatory and quantified health education instruction based upon the NHES and mandatory health educator qualifications.

Conclusions: State health education policies are a critical aspect of comprehensive school health programs. Several states in this review have benchmark policies and resources for other states to emulate.