Schroeder, B. A., Messina, A., Holliday, C., Barto, S., Schroeder, D., & Masiello, M. (2012). The Role of a Health Care Foundation in a Statewide Bullying Prevention Initiative. Academy of Health Care Management Journal, 8(1), 33-40.
In the field of health promotion, bullying in schools has been considered a priority and focal point of research throughout the past few years. Bullying is recognized as an individual with little defenses repeatedly experiencing negative actions from one or more persons. Studies prove that bullying victims experience a greater change of serious health concerns such as depression, low self-esteem, and suicidal thoughts over their lifetime. However with the unrivaled support from a health care foundation, a bullying prevention program has been implemented on a wide scale in Pennsylvanian (U.S.) schools. Over a three year period, bullying has been addressed among 15 percent of school children in Pennsylvania to become the largest health promotion initiative focused on school bullying in the United States.
In the past 70 years, Highmark Inc. has benefited many school-aged children in the Pennsylvania area. In 2000, Highmark launched the Highmark Healthy High 5 to address nutrition, physical activity, grieving, self-esteem, and bullying prevention in children and teenagers ages six to eighteen. The $100 million health promotion effort provides multi-year grants to community partners focused on the initiative as well. By providing a significant amount of grant money, two advanced bullying prevention programs have been able to develop and flourish based on the internationally accepted, systematic and holistic Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (OBPP). Leading in the largest OBPP implementation in the United States, approximately 260,000 out of 1,775,029 students have been reached in Pennsylvania.
With the provision six million dollar grant, bullying prevention initiatives known as HALT! A Bullying Prevention Program, coordinated by the Windber Research Institute (WRI),and PA CARES (Creating an Atmosphere of Respect and Environment for Success), coordinated by the Pennsylvania Department of Education,have used OBPP to concentrate on school-wide, classroom, individual, and community bullying prevention measures. HALT! managed district-wide implementation, while PA CARES focused on the implementation of OBPP in specific school buildings in a three year study.
By using the Olweus Bullying Questionnaire (OBQ) on students in grades 3-12, data was collected assessing bullying issues, attitudes and beliefs about bullying, bystander perceptions, and student’s satisfaction with school. 107 total schools and 56,137 students participated in the OBQ by the end of the second year of the study. Overall, the OBQ remained positive after program implementation, reporting a decrease in self-reports of bullying. On the high school level, the prevention efforts decreased bullying by 15 to 39 percent. In elementary schools, 27 percent more students testified that they would do their best to aid a bullied student after two years of implementation.
With a goal to produce positive changes in school environments regarding bullying, the Highmark Health High 5, HALT! and PA CARES have reduced bullying incidents in schools while nurturing a climate of positive peer relations and adult involvement. By using evidence-based public health programs, bullying has comprehensively been addressed as a major health issue. In the largest OBPP implementation in Pennsylvania and the United States, Highmark also had led the first pilot of OBPP in high schools within the United States. Through the Highmark Foundations public health initiatives, programs such as the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program can remain on the radar of individuals to provide positive changes in school climate and students’ lives while reducing long-term health care expenses.