Comprehensive school-based health services were reviewed as part of preparing World Health Organization guidelines.
Six databases were searched for controlled trials with schoolchildren aged 5-19 years, involving school-linked health services incorporating 4 of 7 health areas.
Seventeen quasi-experimental studies conducted in high-income countries found school health services associated with reductions in suicide planning (male: 7.1% vs. 7.7%, p < .01), hospitalization (relative risks 3.403, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.536 to 8.473, p < .05), emergency department visits (odds ratio .85, 95% CI .75 to .95, p = .006), school absence (odds ratio .78, 95% CI .69 to .87, p < .0001), carrying weapons (male: 16.1% vs. 25.1%, p < .01), fighting (male: 32.6% vs. 43.1%, p < .01), sexual activity (53.5% vs. 60.5%, p < .05), drinking alcohol (60.1% vs. 70.5%, p < .001), using drugs (28.0% vs. 38.3%, p < .001), and physical activity (female: 57.4% vs. 50.4%, p < .01). They can be cost-saving, were also associated with smoking and less contraceptive use, and had no effect on depression prevalence. Acceptability/satisfaction was good. The certainty of evidence was low to moderate. Heterogeneity was high for some outcomes.
Results suggest moderate desirable and trivial undesirable effects of school health services in high-income countries. This article compiles evidence on effectiveness, cost-effectiveness, and acceptability into one review, enabling decision-makers to consider all essential factors.
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