Benefiting America’s Youth: The Importance of Prevention, Health and Wellness to Academic Success - Part II
April 16, 2012
by Jeff Levi
NEA Health Information Network Blog
You can read Part I of Dr. Levi's Blog here.
Our organization, the Trust for America's Health (TfAH), has worked with the Healthy Schools Campaign (HSC), which has identified some recommendations that teachers, educators and parents can tell policymakers about that can make a difference, including that the U.S. Department of Education should:
- Appoint a Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Education for Health and Environment Initiatives.
- Work with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to support initiatives that increase funding for school nurses and promote alternative funding models for school nurses, such as third-party billing, and community partnerships.
- Incorporate school wellness into existing professional development programs for teachers and principals.
- Modify the Blue Ribbon Schools Program to emphasize the important connection between health and learning by incorporating health measures into the evaluation criteria.
While focusing on local, state and federal education policymakers is important, it’s equally beneficial to work with health policymakers throughout government to provide the resources to communities to help children.
At the federal level, the Affordable Care Act created the Prevention and Public Health Fund. The Fund was designed, in part, to provide new resources and assistance to schools, teachers, parents and students. The fund is an historic investment in disease prevention and has the potential to support wellness efforts in schools and communities. However, to realize that potential, policymakers need to understand the value of the fund as an investment not only in schools today but also in our children’s future. The Fund will benefit children, schools and communities in many ways, including:
- Helping kids eat healthier meals and snacks and get more physical activity in school;
- Expanding opportunities for kids and families to be more active;
- Improving nutrition by increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables and farmers markets; and
- Improving prevention services in low-income and underserved communities.
The Prevention Fund’s policies and programs can make a real difference for the future health of our kids and our country. For instance, we, at the Trust for America's Health, recently released a report that showed if obesity rates continue on the current track, 50-51 percent of men and 45-52 percent of women will be obese by 2030. However, if we are able to reduce body mass index rates by just five percent, the country could save $158.1 billion in 10 years – and spare today’s youth from many preventable obesity-related health problems.
The focus on improving health promises to have a long-term payoff in terms of improving education and quality of life for today’s kids as they grow up, as they will do better in school and be healthier.
The education community can continue to benefit our nation by advocating for prevention and helping our children to make better choices and live healthier lives. Parents, children and policymakers rightly listen to educators.
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