Healthy and Fit Schools
Students are most influenced to lead healthy and productive lives when the schools, parents, and other community groups work collaboratively. Each of these groups has unique roles for accessing students, identifying and sharing resources, and impacting health behaviors of children and youth. Healthy & Fit School Advisory Committees can serve as a catalyst for systemic changes in schools to promote student health and educational outcomes and can develop and implement school wellness policies and health enhancing programs which foster family and community support and involvement.
Research shows a direct relationship between the health of young people and academic achievement. Healthier students have a greater ability to concentrate, lower absenteeism, better productivity, fewer discipline problems, higher test scores, and better classroom participation. The influence of health on school success should not be underestimated. Data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) provides a snapshot of the risky health behaviors that Oklahoma students engage in such as unhealthy eating, little or no physical activity, smoking, not wearing a seat belt, binge drinking, violence, unprotected sex, and drug use. Beyond health and academic consequences, student health problems such as childhood obesity, malnutrition, asthma, injury, and other chronic diseases take an economic toll on schools. Schools bear the costs of providing extra resources and staff time to those students whose academic performance and/or behavior suffers because of health problems. Improving student wellness helps students succeed in school--indeed, it is critical that schools promote health and wellness.
To support schools and their Healthy & Fit School Advisory Committees, this page provides information and technical assistance on the following topics, as required by state law (70 O.S. § 24-100b).
Table of Contents
Most children attend school for six hours a day and consume as much as half of their daily calories at school. School districts’ policies and schools’ practices regarding nutrition environment and services are critical in shaping lifelong healthy eating behaviors. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) created the framework below that describes how to establish healthy school nutrition environments by addressing school meals, smart snacks in the school settings, access to drinking water, classroom celebrations, events, and nonfood rewards. The framework also acknowledges other influences on students’ knowledge, attitudes, and health behaviors such as staff role modeling, food and beverage marketing, and healthy eating learning opportunities. Learn more about the Comprehensive Framework for Addressing the School Nutrition Environment and Services. Here are a few other resources worth checking out: USDA’s Tools for Schools and WellSAT 3.0.
Childhood obesity is a serious problem putting children and adolescents at risk for poor health. Obesity now affects 1 in 5 children and adolescents in the United States. While there is no simple solution to solve the obesity epidemic, a comprehensive approach is most effective at addressing childhood obesity in schools, especially for elementary and middle school students. A comprehensive approach means addressing nutrition and physical activity in schools and involving parents, caregivers, and other community members (e.g., pediatricians, after-school program providers). This kind of approach aims to support the health and well-being of all students. It does not single out students according to their weight status or body size. To avoid embarrassing or shaming students, schools should not emphasize physical appearances or reinforce negative stereotypes about obesity. The CDC provides nine general guidelines for school health programs to address obesity by promoting healthy eating and physical activity in School Health Guidelines to Promote Healthy Eating and Physical Activity.
- Guideline 1: Use a coordinated approach to develop, implement, and evaluate healthy eating and physical activity policies and practices.
- Guideline 2: Establish school environments that support healthy eating and physical activity.
- Guideline 3: Provide a quality school meal program and ensure that students have only appealing, healthy food, and beverage choices offered outside of the school meal program.
- Guideline 4: Implement a comprehensive physical activity program with quality physical education at the cornerstone.
- Guideline 5: Implement health education that provide students with the knowledge, attitudes, skills, and experiences needed for healthy eating and physical activity.
- Guideline 6: Provide students with health, mental health, and social services to address healthy eating, physical activity, and related chronic disease prevention.
- Guidelines 7: Partner with families and community members in the development and implementation of healthy eating and physical activity policies, practices, and programs.
- Guideline 8: Provide a school employee wellness program that includes healthy eating and physical activity services for all school staff members.
- Guideline 9: Employ qualified persons, and provide professional development opportunities for physical education, health education, nutrition services, health, mental health, and social services staff members, as well as staff members who supervise recess, cafeteria time, and out-of-school time programs.
Quality physical education and physical activity programs can provide more movement opportunities and help students achieve the recommended 60 minutes of activity every day. The CDC’s Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program (CSPAP) framework addresses all aspects of school-based physical activity.
Starting with physical education, the Essential Components of Quality Physical Education are policy and environment, curriculum, appropriate instruction, and student assessment. High-quality physical education teaches students the knowledge, skills, and confidence to be physically active for a lifetime and is based on national standards. The Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE) America provides the Appropriate Instructional Practice Guidelines and 20 Indicators of Effective Physical Education Instruction with credible instructional practices. Physical education teachers will be more successful in developing a quality physical education program, when they have access to curriculum, resources, and professional development. CDC’s Physical Education Curriculum Analysis Tool (PECAT) is designed to help school districts and schools to analyze and choose physical education curricula based upon national physical education standards. For more resources on quality physical education, check out the National Association for Sport and Physical Education’s (NASPE) resource brief.
Most chronic diseases can be prevented by eating well, being physically active, avoiding tobacco and getting regular health screenings. One way to prevent chronic diseases is by designing Activity Friendly Communities and schools. Schools can participate in events like Walk to School Day, or encourage parents to start a Walking School Bus to and from school. The CDC has created Eagle Books Toolkit which provides resources that reinforce type 2 diabetes prevention messages. Eagle Books is a series of books for young readers that encourage healthy living. They were developed in response to the burden of diabetes among Native Americans and the lack of diabetes prevention materials for Native American children.
The USDA final rule requires all local educational agencies that participate in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs to meet expanded local school wellness policy requirements consistent with the requirements set forth in section 204 of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. The Act also requires the evaluation of program requirements during a 3-year cycle.
The Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s School Wellness Committees resource outlines the steps to establishing and implementing a school wellness committee, provides sample agendas for meetings, and has short video clips with guidance.
Schools can evaluate their wellness policies with the WellSAT 3.0 tool or School Health Index (SHI), a self-assessment and planning tool. The SHI promotes healthy and safe behaviors among students and provides young people with the knowledge and skills they need to become healthy and productive adults.
The SHI was developed by CDC in partnership with school administrators and staff, school health experts, parents, and national non-governmental health and education agencies for the purpose of:
- Enabling schools to identify the strengths and weaknesses of health and safety policies and programs.
- Enabling schools to develop an action plan for improving student health, which can be incorporated into the School Improvement Plan.
- Engaging teachers, parents, students, and the community in promoting health-enhancing behaviors and better health.
- Steps for Completing the SHI
- Use the SHI to complete a needs assessment.
- Develop action plans for district or school’s health programs and policies.
- Use this information to monitor and/or revise the wellness policy.
- Implement action plans.
- Monitor progress.
- Reassess needs during the three-year cycle.
The CDC has other online resources to assist school districts in designing, implementing, and promoting elements of local school wellness policies:
State Programs Coordinator
Oklahoma State Dept. of Health