4 Steps to Help Make Schools Healthier

4 Steps to Help Make Schools Healthier

Want your kids to have a healthy school environment? As a mom or dad, you have the power to help create one.

By By Gregg Newby, Staff Writer, myOptumHealth

According to many health experts, the writing is on the wall. More children are now overweight than ever before. And because childhood obesity can lead to adult obesity with all its health problems, it's important to nip the problem early.

One of the best places to start doing that is at your child's school. After all, that's where children spend a large chunk of their time. More to the point, schools are uniquely equipped to teach kids about healthy choices.

Yet that can't happen without parental input. That's where you come in. But you may be wondering how to go about it. Who do you talk to and what do you do? Here are some pointers to help you get started.

  1. Inform yourself. Nearly every school is required by law to have a written wellness policy. As a parent, you have the right to view and provide input. Why not drop in at the front office and ask to look it over? As you do, look for the following info:

    • What kind of health education does the school provide?

    • What kind of physical education (P.E.) classes are offered?

    • How much outdoor recess time do kids receive?

    • What is the policy on healthy school lunches?

    • What are the rules concerning snack and drink machines?

    • Who oversees the wellness policy? How is it carried out?

    • Is there a school health committee or wellness team?

    You may notice that some of these items are missing from your school's policy. If so, speak up. Ask how you can recommend changes. You may need to fill out a special form or speak with a specific person.

  2. Get involved. Many districts now have a school health team or wellness committee. It may also go by another name, and you may have to make a few inquiries. Whatever it's called, this is the committee that steers health policy at the school. Parents are generally welcome to join, though you may need to approach an administrator or the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) to find out how.

    And if there is no school health team to join? Then find out how you can help create one. Talk to the school administrators to see how you can get started. In the meantime, there are other ways you can jump in:

    • Offering to chaperone on school trips makes more outdoor activities possible.

    • Helping plan classroom parties and school festivals allows you to bring in healthier foods.

    • Participating in fundraisers helps the school raise money for its sporting programs.

    • Talking with teachers and administrators helps raise awareness around the school.

  3. Collaborate. It's hard to bring about change all by yourself. But if you can find other like-minded parents, the impact is much greater. PTA meetings are a great place to start, though you can also raise awareness with phone calls and e-mails. Encourage other moms and dads to take part. As they get involved, school administrators will see the importance of making healthier changes.

  4. Talk to your kids. Change begins at home, after all. Explain to them the importance of physical activity and healthy food choices. If you feel it's safe, consider letting them walk to and from school every day. Even if the walk's a short one, it could still have long-term benefits

    Finally, remember to be patient. Results aren't always achieved overnight. And even little changes can have a big impact. In the end, your efforts will turn out to be worth it.


Sources:

  • Let's Move! Organize a school health team. Accessed: 05/06/2012
  • U.S Centers for Disease Control. The role of schools in preventing childhood obesity. Accessed: 05/06/2012
  • U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Make a difference at your school! Accessed: 05/06/2012
  • U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Childhood obesity. Accessed: 05/06/2012