Mission + Vision
Healthy Schools Campaign advocates for policies and practices that allow all students, teachers and staff to learn and work in a healthy school environment. Healthy Schools Campaign envisions a society in which:
- Every student, faculty and staff member, regardless of race or socioeconomic background, has equal access to a healthy school environment.
- Schools serve as leaders making the critical connection between learning and health.
- Students have fewer risks of disease, lead healthier adult lives, act as stewards of the environment and achieve their highest potential.
Healthy Schools Campaign’s work is guided by our core values:
- We believe that families should have confidence that the school environment will be healthy and that school leaders will promote healthy behaviors.
- We believe that students learn from example. A healthy school teaches students to value their own health and that of their environment.
- We are concerned about the growing disparities in our country and believe that a quality education for all students is a necessary ingredient in a civil society.
- We believe that all families, faculty, staff, students and community members must have a voice in decisions that affect the school environment.
- We believe that meaningful and sustainable change occurs when informed, engaged and empowered stakeholders collaborate with school officials and policymakers.
Learn more about our approach.
Creating a Healthy Future for All Students
One in four children today has a chronic disease. These conditions—including asthma, diabetes and obesity—have a real impact on learning and health, affecting children’s readiness to learn and hindering their opportunities to grow into healthy and productive adults.
Unless we intervene, these conditions will limit this generation to shorter and less healthy lives than their parents.
Behind this dramatic increase in childhood chronic disease are significant health disparities. Children in low-income communities and communities of color face these illnesses at much higher rates than their peers. Such illnesses threaten not only children’s health but also their opportunities to learn. These health disparities jeopardize a core American value of equal opportunity.
Schools play a critical role in shifting this trajectory.
Research continues to document what parents and teachers know: Healthy students are better prepared to learn. Healthy children are better prepared to live happy, productive lives. The reality is that schools must grapple with children’s health issues in order to achieve their core goal of educating students. A central tenet of public education is providing students with the basic skills to lead productive lives and be engaged, responsible members of our society.
At the heart of such skills are the ability and opportunity to be healthy.
HSC works to ensure that schools can provide students with healthy environments, nutritious food, opportunities for physical activity and experiences that support lifelong healthy habits. Our approach is strategic, clear and comprehensive: We empower, we advocate and we build.
HSC has developed an effective, replicable model that is helping transform the school experience. This means working at multiple levels toward a future in which all students have access to a healthy school environment that provides healthy food, physical activity, nutrition education and health services, giving students the opportunity to develop the knowledge and skills to live healthy and productive lives.
HSC empowers parents, teachers, school nurses and many other school stakeholders with the knowledge and skills to make changes for health and wellness at the school level and to have a voice at the district, state and national levels.
For example, HSC’s Parents United for Healthy Schools coalition has engaged hundreds of parents in Chicago’s low-income Latino and African-American communities in training on health disparities, school wellness and the ways in which parents can create change at the school level. Parent leaders have formed wellness teams that are making health-promoting changes at more than 50 Chicago schools.
Using our on-the-ground experience, HSC develops practical policy recommendations supporting healthy schools and brings these recommendations to the attention of policymakers.
For example, at the same time that HSC-trained parents have been making school-level change, they have also been successfully advocating for change at the district level. Parents gathered thousands of petitions in support of recess and attended CPS board meetings to present the petitions in a strong show of support for bringing back recess. When parents started working on this issue, only 6 percent of CPS elementary schools offered recess. In 2012, recess returned to all elementary schools. HSC-trained parents played a strong role in advocating for this powerful change. At the state level, we brought together a diverse coalition to successfully advocate for policy making Illinois the first state in the nation to require green cleaning in schools. Nationally, we advocate for policies—such as strong nutrition standards for school food—that support student health.
Making sure that schools have the capacity to support wellness is critical to creating sustainable change, so HSC carries out behind-the-scenes work of building support for student health and wellness in the education sector and beyond.
Following successful advocacy to bring back recess in Chicago, for example, HSC talked with principals and teachers to identify challenges they face in implementing this policy. One of the main challenges they identified was a lack of trained volunteers to support the effort. Others mentioned a lack of space or problems with old, broken playground equipment. HSC, working with parent leaders, organized trainings to equip parents to serve as recess monitors. HSC then launched the Space to Grow initiative with Openlands to build vibrant green schoolyards to support recess and outdoor education, among other goals.
HSC’s unique approach connects our work for systems change on a national, state and local level with on-the-ground work in Chicago Public Schools. Our work on the ground informs our perspective on national policy and marketplace change. Read more about our work in Chicago.
Chicago Based, Nationally-Minded
Since beginning as a local project in Chicago in 2002, HSC has grown into a vibrant national organization with diverse strategic partnerships and effective outreach to schools, communities, and policy-makers. As we work for policy change and market transformation on a national level, we continue to pioneer new strategies through our Chicago programs, particularly projects focused on healthy food and physical activity in schools.
This work is especially relevant in the context of the vast health disparities that exist in our nation. As our national leaders work to close the achievement gap and ensure that all students have opportunities for a quality education, it is especially important that national policies take into account the ways that health problems can hinder learning, and the special urgency of effective school wellness efforts in schools that serve low-income minority students facing high rates of health disparities.
HSC’s work in Chicago provides powerful lessons on just such efforts. The Chicago Public Schools system serves more than 400,000 students at more than 600 schools. African-American and Latino students comprise 85 percent of the district’s student population, and more than 86 percent of the students are considered economically disadvantaged. HSC’s successful efforts to transform the food and fitness environment in Chicago schools provide valuable lessons for our national policy initiatives.
Transformation for Health + Learning
HSC has developed an effective approach that is helping transform the school experience for children in Chicago and across the nation. Here, we are honored to share a small snapshot of these efforts. We invite you to learn more about our work on this site—from food policy to environmental justice and much more. If you would like to discuss these efforts in more detail, please contact us.
Transforming School Food
350,000+ students in Chicago Public Schools are eating healthier school food—including regionally-grown produce and chicken raised without antibiotics in nearby Indiana—thanks to policies and practices the district has put in place with HSC’s support. Nationally, HSC is putting student voices front and center in the policy dialogue around school food through our Cooking up Change healthy cooking contest. We are joining advocates across the nation to speak up and defend hard-won progress for nutritious food in schools.
Transforming School Fitness
74 percent of Chicago Public Schools high schools are now offering physical education, after nearly a decade without any high schools offering PE! HSC advocated strongly for the district’s new PE policy. The policy requires high-quality daily PE for all students, giving physical education the importance it deserves and ensuring that students receive the significant benefits of daily exercise. Now we are working with parents and school leaders to raise awareness of the importance of daily PE and help galvanize resources at the district and school levels to help schools bridge the gap as they adjust to the new policy. Through our Fit to Learn professional development program, we’re working with teachers and principals to ensure daily PE focuses on engaging all students in physical activity to build lifelong healthy habits.
Transforming School Facilities and Operations
200,000+ school decision-makers are making their schools healthier with the support of GreenCleanSchools.org, HSC’s online resource that provides schools with the information and tools to implement a healthy, environmentally responsible cleaning program.
Transforming the Classroom Experience
300+ teachers representing more than 120 Chicago schools are teaching lessons in healthy new ways thanks to Fit to Learn. HSC created this professional development program to focus on integrating physical activity and nutrition education seamlessly into the classroom and school. With lessons from this on-the-ground experience, HSC is advocating to make health part of our national education policy.
Transforming School Health Services
Millions of students stand to benefit from recent policy changes resulting from HSC’s work to increase access to school health services. HSC is working to ensure the role schools can play in delivering school health services is recognized and that more funding is available to support the delivery of these services. HSC is working at the federal, state and local levels to implement this work and catalyze efforts across the country to provide students with the health care they need to thrive.
These numbers represent a small snapshot of HSC’s impact. We invite you to learn more about our work throughout this site. If you would like to discuss these efforts in more detail, please contact us.