Communication Strategies in Schools – What is the Best Practice?

The Elementary School Services Program at York Region Public Health is currently in the process of identifying the most effective (best
practice) communication strategies to implement within our school communities which include professional staff, volunteers and engaged parents. We are working to balance the need to ensure our health messaging is accessible both electronically, as well as in hard copy for those schools with limited computer access.
I am requesting feedback on what strategies other Health Units are implementing to communicate information to their schools. Is anyone still using paper copy newsletters? Are people using electronic modes of communication (e.g. e-Bulletins) and if so, what formats have been most affective? How often are you communicating with your schools? If you have evaluated your communication strategies with school communities, are you able to share the results?
Also, for those who are our target audience -schools and their staff members (teachers, parents, administrators, etc.) what suggestions do you have that could make receiving information from your local health unit as efficient and user-friendly as possible?
Finally, if there are any health units who have recently done any literature reviews on what is best practice on this topic and are willing to share, that would be greatly appreciated as well!
Any feedback we could get would be very helpful as we try to get a general sense of what is working well.

Thank you!
Amber Crate, RN, BScN
Public Health Nurse
Elementary School Program
Healthy Living Division
Community and Health Services Department

3 thoughts on “Communication Strategies in Schools – What is the Best Practice?

  1. Most schools and school councils still use paper newsletters, although there is a slow shift to electronic forms of communication. The best way to get the word out, especially if you are trying to reach parents, is by using every media method available – if the school has a website, post info there, ask the principal AND the school council to include the info in their newsletters (many schools have both, and I don’t think you will ever have a parent complain about too much communication!). Sending e-bulletins is a great idea, as they can easily be forwarded far and wide. My other tip is to keep everything short and sweet. After the first paragraph, you’re going to start losing busy parents – a short blurb with the key points, and a link to more details for the keeners, seems to work best. And for parents, simple, clear, EASY tips are appreciated – parents will lose interest if the tone is judgmental or demanding – trust me, we already know we ain’t perfect, and really don’t want to hear it from other people.  If someone tells me that I have to eat with my kids 7 days a week in order to raise them right, I’m going to feel like a failure because I know that’s never going to happen. But if it is something simpler, such as telling me that “eating just one meal a week with your family helps to reduce eating disorders”, I can say “Hey, I can do that! I can even go one better and eat 3 meals together!” Now I feel like a super-parent!

  2. Our Chronic Disease & Injury Prevention Program (at Toronto Public Health) developed some packages to support our consultations and assist elementary schools with taking a comprehensive approach to promoting healthy eating, physical activity, sun safety, and tobacco use prevention in their schools. Attached is the Introduction flyer to the packages. We are looking at posting information from these packages on the Toronto Public Health web site.

    If you would like more information, you can contact Judy Soong, PHN ( 416-338-6114 or Martha Macdonald, PHN (416-338-6108).

    Toronto Public Health
    1530 Markham Rd., 6th Floor
    Scarborough, ON M1B 3G4

  3. At Elgin St. Thomas Public Health we used to produce bi-annual newsletters for teachers/staff/parents with approximately 4 highlighted issues per newsletter, but due to costs we have discontinued this form of communication. We now try and email our schools monthly topics for insertion into their school newsletter- which some parents receive electronically and others receive hardcopy depending on how they have indicated the would like to receive the newsletter. We have also created a section on our website specifically for schools, here we have resources, newsletter inserts and specific information for educators. This way schools can cut and paste what they need at any given time. Our challenge is ensuring that all school staff know about this section as it’s located under community parters, we have tried to encourage access by directly emailing the link to our principals/vp’s and contact staff. We have personal contact with all of our schools on a regular basis and may provide materials in person and via email ie. Pause to Play info for teachers/families, or teacher training opportunites through Dairy Farmers of Canada, or information to parents such as an free recreational actitivies. We have not evaluated these activities, but we probably should.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s