New Research Shows Link Between Wellness Services and Student Success

September 20, 2013 – ETR and the San Francisco Wellness Initiative, in partnership with the University of California Berkeley and the University of Denver, today announced the results of a breakthrough research study providing solid evidence that participation in Wellness Center services significantly increases youth development assets at school–those characteristics of the school environment that are directly linked to improved attendance and academic success.

The research study, published in the October 2013 issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health, 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.

Results show that, relative to comparison groups of students who don’t participate in Wellness services:

  1. Students who use any Wellness Services report statistically significant increases in school assets–even those who visit just one or two times.
  1. Students who visit their Wellness Center more frequently report higher assets.
  1. Students with the highest risk factors participate in services most frequently, report the highest school assets scores, and experience the strongest caring relationships with adults in the Wellness Centers.

According to ETR’s lead program evaluator and study co-author Dr. John Shields, “This research provides robust evidence that confirms what we’ve learned as the evaluator of the Wellness Initiative over the past twelve years–that the Wellness Centers provide essential and effective services and supports for students attending San Francisco’s public high schools.”

The need for school-based services is high, according to Dr. Shields. “In SFUSD high schools in 2013, over a quarter of students reported symptoms of depression, and nearly one out of ten students reported attempting suicide. A significant proportion of students are also turning to alcohol and other drugs–about 12% reported binge drinking in the past month, and 30% reported smoking marijuana in their lifetime.”

According to SFUSD Superintendent Richard Carranza, “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.”

As one high school student put it, “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 put it this way, “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.”

To read a summary of the research, Our Impact on School-Based Youth Development Assets, please visit the initiative’s web site.

About ETR: ETR offers science-based health and education products and programs, providing solutions that work for health professionals, educators and consumers throughout the United States. We employ proven methods that engage individuals, families and communities in eliminating health and educational inequities, managing risk and making optimal health choices.

About the San Francisco Wellness Initiative: The mission of the San Francisco Wellness Initiative is to improve the health, well-being and educational outcomes of public high school students.  The initiative serves over 7,500 students annually through school-based programming and services that promote healthy lifestyles.

About the University of California Berkeley’s School of Social Welfare: Berkeley Social Welfare is one of the nation’s most prestigious social work graduate programs. As part of the world’s leading public university, the School of Social Welfare is training the next generation of social work professionals, scholars, advocates and policymakers dedicated to serving society’s most vulnerable members.

About the University of Denver’s School of Social Work: The Graduate School of Social Work is committed to excellence in teaching, scholarship and community leadership and services. Its mission is to foster social responsibility regarding social and economic justice, quality of life and multicultural communities, based on equality for all people.

For more information regarding the Wellness Initiative research, please contact:

John P. Shields, PhD, MSW, Senior Research Associate, at (510) 858-0990 or

Stacey Blankenbaker, San Francisco Wellness Initiative Director, at




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