Environmental Protection Agency Releases New State Guidelines

April 03, 2013

Although several states have healthy school environment procedures in place, they definitely vary — and some states have none at all. Recently The Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Children’s Health Protection released its guidelines for states to create environmental school health programs.

It’s a great step toward creating a united front.

The EPA and its partners designed these guidelines to help states establish the infrastructure needed to support schools in implementing school environmental health programs, in accordance with the Energy Independence Security Act of 2007. Innovations include a model K-12 school environmental health program that states can customize, share with schools and school districts and adapt to local needs.

Parents and educators can also use the EPA’s model to explain their needs to the states.

Here are six specific steps the EPA recommends states take to build or enhance a sustainable state environmental health program for schools:

1) Assess Existing Resources and Infrastructure: Identify a lead office within a state agency that can work with other agencies and assess existing state initiatives and any existing laws, policies, or regulations that address healthy school environments.

2) Determine Capacity: Determine the capacity of each state agency to contribute to an effective state environmental health program for schools.

3) Develop a Plan: Develop an initial plan to establish a new, or enhance an existing, state environmental health program for schools based on available resources.

4) Implement the Program: Work with the lead office or the steering committee to ensure the state program is implemented effectively.

5)  Evaluate the Program: Evaluate the state program’s goals, activities, and milestones to determine whether they need to be revised or expanded to improve the program.

6) Sustain the Program: Utilize the results of state program evaluations to determine the return on investment, make adjustments to the program where needed, and communicate successes.

We commend the EPA for taking this step. The EPA already offered an informative blueprint for schools with its Tools For Schools kit, and we’re glad to see they have expanded upon this with such a valuable new  guide. Those who want to make change can use this new avenue to work with state education boards and advocate for healthier schools. Plus, this new step helps parents, educators and community members working to hold states accountable for making healthy, sustainable schools a priority.

We look forward to seeing the next steps and highlighting programs in states where progress is being made.

For more on what current state school health policies look like and examples of implementation, check out our Health in Mind report!