Exploring the potential of a school-based online health and wellbeing screening tool: professional stakeholders' perspectives and experiences

Nicholas Woodrow*, Hannah Fairbrother, Katie Breheny, Katrina d'Apice, Patricia N Albers, Clare Mills, Matthew Curtis, Lisa Hopkins, Sarah Tebbett, Rona Campbell, Frank De Vocht

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
33 Downloads (Pure)


BACKGROUND: Supporting children and young people's (CYP) mental and physical health is a global policy priority but detecting need and facilitating access to health services and support is challenging. This paper explores professional stakeholders' perspectives of the acceptability, utility and effectiveness of a school-based online health and wellbeing screening tool, the Digital Health Contact (DHC). The DHC, delivered by Public Health School Nurses (PHSN), aims to identify, and put in place strategies to support, unmet health needs among CYP.

METHODS: We employed a qualitative study design, using semi-structured interviews. Fourteen key stakeholders involved in the design and implementation of the DHC (commissioners, providers, PHSN and healthcare staff, school leaders) were purposively sampled. Data were analysed thematically.

RESULTS: Our analysis generated two key themes: the perceived benefits of the DHC; and challenges in delivering the DHC. Stakeholders perceived the universal application of the DHC with linked follow-up intervention as an effective means of identifying and supporting CYP with unmet needs, and an efficient way to target limited service resources. There were barriers around enabling school engagement in the DHC, typically in terms of logistics, school infrastructure, and perspectives of fit with schools. These barriers were seen as being negated through developing effective working relationships between schools and PHSN. Effective relationships could highlight the potential benefits of participation. Overall, the DHC was seen as a valuable and effective use of resources, with a low burden on school staff.

CONCLUSIONS: The DHC, as a universal school-based health and wellbeing screening tool with linked follow-up intervention, has great potential in identifying and supporting unmet health needs among CYP. The perspectives and experiences of those involved in delivering the DHC highlight important considerations which may enable effective implementation and delivery of school screening programmes across other areas.

Original languageEnglish
Article number324
Number of pages14
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 16 Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) School for Public Health Research (SPHR) (SPHR-PHPES009-DHC).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).

Structured keywords

  • HEHP@Bristol


  • School
  • Health Screening
  • Children and young people


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