When our children head to school each day, we hope they are learning as much as possible. A strong and growing body of research shows that one of the best ways to improve academic outcomes – and, in fact, all life outcomes ‒ is to address health-related barriers to learning and get kids off to a healthy start.
The school environment affects child health
Through health and physical education, opportunities for physical activity, school meals and snacks, and nursing and counseling services, schools can have a profound impact on child health. The Alliance’s Healthy Schools Program was launched in 2005 to help schools nationwide implement the most effective policies and practices in these areas.
Often led by passionate PTA champions, the 29,000+ schools we work with today are making extraordinary improvements in their school health programs. And now we are beginning to see evidence documenting the impact that these improvements are having on student health. A recent peer-reviewed research study published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s journal, Preventing Chronic Disease, confirmed that schools have the power to affect child health and, specifically, that the Healthy Schools Program is “an important means of supporting schools in reducing obesity.”
The study, Effect of the Healthy Schools Program on Prevalence of Overweight and Obesity in California Schools, 2006–2012, is the first peer-reviewed journal article about the Healthy Schools Program’s impact on reducing childhood obesity. It found that the more that schools engaged with the Program, and the longer they engaged, the greater reductions they saw in student rates of obesity.
These findings prove that together, committed individuals ‒ including teachers, administrators and parents ‒ can make changes that have a positive effect on children’s health, and ultimately, their ability to learn and thrive.
Healthy students learn better: Help build healthier schools
To ensure that your children get the most out of their time at school, we encourage you to get involved in your school’s efforts to create a healthier learning environment.
It’s easy to get started: Join your school’s wellness council through our Healthy Schools Program. If your school isn’t enrolled, you can sign up for free and invite others to join your team. As a Healthy Schools Program team member, you’ll be granted access to a variety of resources that support health at school and in your home, including movement breaks, healthy fundraising ideas, and recipes for nutritious, tasty meals and snacks.
Through the efforts of parent champions, schools have the power to give our kids the healthy start that will enable them to flourish.
Howell Wechsler, EdD, MPH, is the Chief Executive Officer of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. As a proud father of five, Dr. Wechsler has been an active member of Parent Teacher Organizations at 7 different public schools in Georgia.