Objectives Tobacco use, physical activity and obesity are important paediatric health issues. Programme providers responsible for these areas need evidence to guide their intervention choices within the school and community setting.
Methods The school health action, planning and evaluation system (SHAPES) is a data collection and feedback system designed to support population-based intervention planning, evaluation and field research related to youth. The tobacco use and physical activity modules of SHAPES both consist of three elements: (1) a machine-readable questionnaire to support the collection of relevant behavioural data from all students (grades 6 to 12) in a school; (2) a school administrator questionnaire to assess school policies, programmes and resources related to student behaviour and (3) a school-specific computer-generated feedback report documenting both student behaviours and the availability of school programmes and policies.
Results SHAPES has created a more innovative linkage between research and practice by providing stakeholders with the evidence they need, when they need it, in a context-specific form that is useful and understandable for guiding and evaluating prevention programming. The demand for SHAPES is high; these tools have been completed by over 350 000 students in more than 700 schools in Canada since 2000.
Conclusions SHAPES has been successful in: engaging local health and education systems in planning, tailoring and evaluating school health initiatives based on evidence; engaging researchers to assess contextual influences on youth behaviour and providing a platform to study the processes and structures required for effective knowledge transfer and exchange in school settings.