Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child

New Year Resolutions for School Health

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With the beginning of a new year, many of us think about exchanging our old bad habits for new good ones.  Often, New Year’s resolutions focus on changing how we eat, how much sleep we get, or how active we want to be.  In preparation for getting a great start in 2012, the NEA Health Information Network offers its list of the ten top good habits (in no particular order) that schools can adopt to help students and staff be healthier.

  1. Offer healthier food in school meal programs and from other sources that sell food in the schools. With the twin challenges of hunger and obesity, the types of food served in schools becomes more important than ever.  Students need access to healthy food choices so they can make them.
  2. Expand school breakfast participation. Nationally, only a fraction of the students who participate in free and reduced lunch programs also participate in breakfast.  Research shows that kids who eat breakfast function better throughout the day.
  3. Provide more physical activity before, during, and after school. Kids should get 60 minutes of vigorous physical activity each day, but very few do.  Schools can help children be healthier by adding activity to instructional programs, creating exercise breaks, offering active recess programs, and in many other ways.  Physical education needs to be part of the curriculum—it teaches lifelong healthy habits.
  4. Help students and adults get the necessary vaccinations.  Immunization is one of the basic steps to preventing illness and can saves lives by stopping the spread of potentially life-threatening diseases.
  5. Create healthy indoor environments. The condition of the school building sends a critical message to students about how much we value them. Poor air quality can cause or exacerbate asthma, a leading cause of school absenteeism.
  6. Support respectful bully-free environments. No one should feel unsafe at school, whether they are students or adults.  Schools need programs and policies that allow everyone to feel safe and secure.  When adults see bullying take place, they need to step in and stop it, and they need the support that allows them to do so.
  7. Teach safe and appropriate use of the internet, social media, and technology.  Students and adults in schools need to understand how to connect smartly and safely, so that valuable communication and instruction tools are not misused and don’t cause lasting harm.
  8. Implement programs and policies to prevent food allergy reactions and know how to manage those reactions if they occur. Food allergy reactions can be prevented and everyone has a part to play.
  9. Provide access to health services for all students through school nurses, school-based or school linked health services, and access to health insurance.  Students with basic care will be less likely to miss school.
  10. Hope for the best but prepare for the worst.  Schools should have a crisis response and management plan that includes educating all members of the school community about how to deal with emergency situations. 

What’s your school health resolution for 2012?  Please share your thoughts with us at info@neahin.org or on our website www.neahin.org.  We wish you a healthy and happy New Year. 

Editor’s Note: This post is from our partners at the NEA Health Information Network (NEA HIN). Each month, we feature a new column on a topic related to school health. Through this effort, we hope to inform the public of important health issues that impact schools and offer educators and parents resources to address them.

Today's post was authored by Nora Howley and Bette Simpson.