Health Ed Works Year 1 Report


What is Health Education?

Comprehensive Health Education is an academic subject that provides students with the knowledge and skills to make physical, emotional, and mental health choices that support healthy living and academic success. Through developmentally appropriate, inclusive health education classes in elementary, middle and high school, students learn and apply critical social and emotional skills that can help them succeed in the classroom and beyond. They learn how to set goals and how to access reliable health resources. Knowledgeable, trained health teachers serve as trusted adults and can help students connect with services to address their health needs. 

Health Content Areas

  • Social, Emotional, and Mental Health
  • Nutrition and Physical Activity
  • Personal Health and Safety
  • Growth and Development (K-5) 
  • Sexual Health (6-12)
  • Disease and Illness Prevention, including HIV/AIDS
  • Tobacco, Alcohol, and Other Drug-Use Prevention

Health Skills Development

  • Accessing Information
  • Analyzing Influences
  • Communication
  • Advocacy
  • Decision-making
  • Goal Setting
  • Self-management

Why is Health Education Important?

Health education provides students with the skills to navigate growing up, and the tools to care for themselves and others throughout their lives, while contributing to a positive school environment. Quality health education can change perspectives, transform behaviors, and help students learn and mature. It builds a foundation for lifelong learning, cooperation, and participation in families, communities, and our society. It also creates opportunities to engage families in supporting their child’s development, and provides school communities with a way to establish a school culture that supports student well-being. 

A significant body of research shows that a student’s health directly affects academic performance and educational opportunity. Health education programs have been shown to decrease behavioral issues, improve school attendance, increase performance on tests, and increase school graduation rates

Health education addresses issues that are present and relevant for our students now, such as the opioid epidemic, vaping, consent, healthy relationships, bullying, mental health, and much more, while also providing the social-emotional, skills-based instruction that all young people need in order to be safe, healthy, and academically successful, whatever particular challenges they may encounter now or in the future. 

What is Health Ed Works?

Announced in May 2018, Health Ed Works is a multiyear initiative to ensure that more New York City students receive comprehensive health education that meets New York State Education Department requirements and helps them develop the skills to make healthy decisions and avoid high-risk behaviors throughout their lives.

Why do we need Health Ed Works?

In New York City, as well as nationally, health education has not been an area of focus for many decades. Across our school system, there are differing ideas about what health education is and how to provide it, the mandates required by law, and why this subject is necessary for student achievement and well-being. As a result, students’ opportunities to learn critical health education skills vary considerably from school to school, with some students not receiving any health instruction at all. In 2018-19, for example, more than half of NYC students in grades 6-8 finished middle school without having a comprehensive health education class. 

Quality health education requires teachers who are trained and supported in order to provide students with medically accurate, inclusive, and developmentally appropriate instruction. Yet teachers assigned to health classes may not have adequate preparation or guidance. Consistent with national trends, in New York City health education is rarely taught by certified or trained health teachers, and classes often do not include the full scope of content and skills that students need. In 2018-19, there were just 160 licensed health instructors in New York City, and very few teachers who were assigned to teach health attended professional learning. 

With Health Ed Works, New York City aims to address these challenges by establishing health education as a non-negotiable, foundational component of every student’s education, while engaging educators, families, and community stakeholders to prioritize the health of our young people. We will begin this work by providing targeted resources to address key components of quality health education, including staffing, scheduling, and instructional quality, in a cohort of 250 schools.

How will Health Ed Works tackle these issues?

Under the Health Ed Works initiative, all K-12 district schools will receive a formal needs assessment to identify key barriers to providing standards-based health education, and a customized action plan with strategies to address those barriers. A cohort of 250 Health Ed Works Focus Schools will receive intensive support over four years to help them establish model health programs that can serve as a blueprint for the rest of the City. The Health Ed Works Focus Schools include all middle schools in eight priority districts identified as having the highest need (6, 7, 8, 17, 23, 25, 27, and 31), as well as selected elementary, District 75, high school and transfer high schools. The first cohort of 25 Focus Schools will receive additional resources over five years to strengthen sexual health education, sexual health services, and safe and supportive environments through our cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Adolescent Health (CDC-DASH). 

We will concentrate our work with all Focus Schools in three main areas:


Quality health education requires more and better-prepared teachers who have access to vibrant professional learning opportunities and instructional materials that are up-to-date and responsive to student needs. We will

  • Fund 100 current NYC Department of Education (NYC DOE) teachers to earn a health education certification.
  • Support teachers from the 250 Focus Schools in completing the NYC DOE Health Education Professional Learning Pathway, a sequence of trainings that prepares teachers to provide skills-based, medically accurate, developmentally appropriate, and inclusive health instruction.
  • Provide one-on-one coaching cycles for teachers that offer the benefits of customized instructional support.
  • Develop new instructional materials, including the DOE’s first ever Health Education Scope and Sequence, a practical, standards-based guidance document that outlines and describes what students should know and be able to do at each grade level; an updated HIV/AIDS Curriculum; and additional curricular resources.


Establishing health education in New York City requires educational leaders who understand the role of comprehensive health instruction in student outcomes, and who establish the structures and practices necessary to implement quality health. We will 

  • Support principals in more consistently assigning prepared teachers to health courses, to build capacity, and ensure quality instruction 
  • Collaborate with school leaders to implement scheduling practices that meet State and City requirements and provide students with health instruction earlier in their educational experience 
  • Develop resources for administrators to implement quality health programs
  • Strengthen schools’ ability to connect students with appropriate health services 

Family and Community Stakeholders

Families, community members, and young people are powerful advocates for health education, especially when they join School Wellness Councils. Wellness councils help schools prioritize and implement the conditions that are necessary to establish and sustain quality health instruction that meets student needs. We will 

  • Provide multi-year School Wellness Council grants that include resources to develop and increase student leadership 
  • Engage community stakeholders in promoting health education best practices and partnering with schools 
  • Develop family materials to promote a greater understanding of health education and the role that parents and caregivers play in young peoples’ development
  • Build greater Citywide understanding about what health education is and why it is so important for student success and well-being

Year 1 Activities

In 2018-19, the first year of Health Ed Works, we

  • Identified target districts and Focus Schools
  • Completed 1,001 needs assessments, and developed a customized needs assessment for District 75 and transfer high schools
  • Published the DOE’s first-ever K-12 Health Education Scope and Sequence in order to establish a common set of standards-based instructional expectations Citywide, and to provide guidance for implementing those expectations
  • Piloted the first health education Professional Learning Community for teachers
  • Launched the first Health Education certification cohort with 25 teachers
  • Began the K-12 HIV/AIDS Curriculum revision project, including the creation of the HIV Advisory Council
  • Worked with the 25 Cohort 1 Focus Schools on scheduling health to meet requirements and using their grant funds to enhance health education instruction
  • Provided funding and technical assistance to Cohort 1 Focus Schools to establish or enhance health education-focused School Wellness Councils
  • Readjusted original Health Ed Works four-year deliverables and scope of work to reflect City budget reductions
  • Completed Year 1 of CDC-DASH Cooperative Agreement 1807

Looking Ahead 

In Year 2, we will launch Cohort 2 of the Health Ed Works Focus Schools with 100 elementary, middle, high school, District 75, and transfer high schools, and continue to support Cohort 1 in their second year of participation. 


To increase educators’ preparedness and ability to provide quality instruction, we will

  • Guide Cohort 2 teachers in starting the Health Education Professional Learning Pathway
  • Provide individualized instructional coaching
  • Establish the Health Education certification program’s second cohort with 25 participants
  • Pilot an expanded K-5 Growth and Development unit
  • Continue the HIV/AIDS Curriculum rewrite and pilot elementary lessons 
  • Expand the health education Professional Learning Community


To help administrators implement quality health education, we will 

  • Complete additional needs assessments and pilot a new health education action plan digital app
  • Pilot District 75 and transfer high school needs assessment 
  • Work with Cohort 1 and Cohort 2 schools to improve scheduling practices


To engage families and stakeholders in advancing comprehensive health education, we will

  • Provide funding and guidance to Cohort 1 and 2 Focus Schools to establish or enhance health education-focused Wellness Councils
  • Pilot models for student leadership in School Wellness Councils
  • Develop family materials for elementary health education
  • Collaborate with the Mayoral Sexual Health Education Task Force to promote quality health and sexual health education for students Citywide


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