A Successful Statewide School-Based Bullying Prevention Model: The Impact of a Cooperative Children's Health Promotion Initiative

Monday, October 19, 2009
Farragut Square-Lafayette Park (Grand Hyatt)
Matthew G. Masiello, MD, MPH, FAAP and Jennifer Saylor, BS, CHES, The Center for Health Promotion & Disease Prevention, Windber Research Institute - Windber Medical Center, Windber, PA

Purpose:   A regional, managed care-based, private and charitable foundation has supported programs aimed at improving community health. In 2006, this foundation launched an unprecedented, five-year, $100 million children’s health promotion initiative. This study identifies the impact of collaborative efforts to reduce social and health consequences of school-based bullying in Pennsylvania.  

Methods:   An innovative partnership was formed between a regional charitable foundation, a state department of education, and a regional public health research institute, along with other groups and agencies devoted to bullying prevention. An internationally recognized and evidence-based bullying prevention program was incorporated into a comprehensive, school-based bullying prevention initiative, and implemented in several Pennsylvania school districts beginning in 2007, reaching approximately 4,000 students in the first year of implementation. Pre- and post-program analysis was conducted in these districts in the form of an anonymous survey.

Results:   This initiative identified new and sustainable partnerships in school-based health promotion activities. Preliminary data analysis conducted on participating schools who had two data points (four elementary and three middle) demonstrated a reduction in bullying and victimization rates, improved school climate, and positive behavioral changes in adults and children. For both elementary and middle schools students, there was a reported reduction in bullying by:  social exclusion, racial comments, sexual comments and cyberbullying. Middle school students also reported a 28% decrease in bullying others.

There was a 14% decrease in the percentage of middle school students afraid of being bullied and a 49% decrease in those reporting having zero or only one friend in his/her class. Students in elementary and middle school students were significantly less likely to perceive that their teachers had done “little or nothing” in the last couple of months to stop students from bullying (24% and 6%, respectively).

At the conclusion of this initiative approximately 200,000 students will have been impacted by programming, the largest study to date.

Conclusion:   Through collaborative relationships among unconventional partners, charitable foundations have the ability to positively impact the behavioral and physical health outcomes of a large population of children and adolescents.