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Socio-Ecological Model

In developing the concept of Fit Classrooms, the Socio-Ecological Model was used as a guide for the initiative. The Socio-Ecological Model represents the interconnected relationships individuals have with factors in their environment. It recognizes that health education programs fit into a larger picture of building a healthy environment. There are five levels to the Socio-Ecological Model: individual, interpersonal, institutional, community and policy.

Use of the Socio-Ecological Model and other health education models
How does Fit Classrooms fit the socio-ecological model?


  • At the individual level, a teacher wants to better her health and be a positive role model for students, so she uses her pedometer on walks around the school grounds on breaks.
  • At the interpersonal level, a teacher wants to encourage students to take an active role in maintaining their health, so he incorporates lessons on exercise and healthy food selection.
  • At the institutional level, a principal supports efforts of the school based decision-making council to improve safety in the school environment by including anti-bullying and smoke-free campus clauses in the school’s wellness policy.
  • At the community level, parents and parent teacher organization members work with teachers and parents to enforce the school wellness policy (no candy sales for fundraising and healthy alternatives in classroom and school celebrations).
  • At the policy level, schools work with community organizations (i.e. recreation centers, park districts, local health departments and food distributors) and national groups (i.e. Action for Healthy Kids, Center for Science in the Public Interest and Alliance for a Healthier Generation) and in support of Senate Bill 172 and other national level action to improve health of students, families and staff.

Use of the Socio-Ecological Model and other health education models
With evaluation and theory in mind, the Socio-Ecological Model and other health education models are used to develop goals and objectives for the program concepts. The program concept is then marketed to the target population. After selecting the pilot population, health educators are responsible for training staff and implementing the program. Once the first phase of the program is completed, data are gathered for evaluation. If the program is proven to meet the goals and objectives set forth at its initiation, the program will then be available to the entire population.

How does Fit Classrooms fit the Socio-Ecological Model?
To understand how the Fit Classrooms project fits into this model, we recognize that at the individual level, people decide to either make or disregard healthy choices. In this case, students and staff have the individual decision to make a healthy choice. At the interpersonal level, groups work together to make healthy choices. Schools that choose to implement physical activity and/or nutrition programs into their classrooms fit in at this level.

At the institutional level, the school then may work with the health educators to develop a long-term plan to implement environmental changes within the school to promote healthy choices. Both the community and policy levels present the opportunity for the Health Department to assist with building healthier communities and educate officials about developing policy that promotes healthy living.

Fit Classrooms>Creating a Healthy School>Socio-Ecological Model