National Progress for Healthy Schools: 2014 Milestones

January 09, 2015

At the national level, HSC often speaks up for policies that support healthy schools. 2014 saw plenty of those policy initiatives.

By Rochelle Davis, HSC President and CEO

We believe every child deserves a healthy school. HSC brings a simple approach to this vision: empower, advocate and build. We empower school stakeholders, advocate for policy change and work to build the capacity to implement these changes.

At the national level, this often means speaking up for policies that support healthy schools. We also realize that some of the most critical steps our nation can take for kids’ health — such as the recent clarification that schools can receive Medicaid reimbursement for providing eligible health services — are not necessarily about changing policies but about digging into the specifics of how they’re implemented.

In this context, our approach also means helping build our federal government’s capacity to support student health and elevating the voices of on-the-ground experts who can provide national leadership on key school health issues.

At the national level, 2014 brought challenges such as the (largely unsuccessful) efforts by some members of Congress to undermine nutrition standards for school food. It also brought tremendous successes and some critical steps on the path to ensuring every child has a healthy school.

With the year having come to a close with the important news about Medicaid reimbursement, I’m so pleased to take a moment to reflect on the milestones we celebrated in 2014 at the national level:

Elevating Student Voices in the School Food Policy Debate. HSC’s Cooking up Change healthy cooking contest puts student voices front and center in the national policy dialogue about school food — and in actual policy briefings on Capitol Hill. Student voices for school food were particularly powerful and poignant last year as members of Congress played politics with school nutrition standards. Student chef Anna explained: “We’re asking Congress, please don’t roll back the nutrition standards. We’re making progress. Through Cooking up Change, we’re making a difference.” Read more.

Connecting School Health + Civil Rights in Education. For the first time since its launch in 1968, our nation’s Civil Rights Data Collection on education will include questions related to health. HSC successfully advocated for this key addition. These questions will help us develop a real picture of health service access and will allow us to better develop strategies to deliver the health services needed by our children. Read more.

Transforming the Connection between Education + Health. With the National Collaborative on Education and Health, HSC is strengthening collaboration between the health and education sectors to address health disparities and help close the academic achievement gap. The Collaborative, which HSC co-convenes in partnership with Trust for America’s Health, brings together advocates, policymakers, school stakeholders and funders to work toward more fully integrating education and health. Read more.

Strengthening National Leadership for Green Schools. HSC’s new Green Clean Schools Leadership Council brings together award-winning school facility managers to provide innovative and practical guidance to schools across the country. The Council will provide up-to-date guidance to us here at HSC on new developments in green cleaning. Council members will also provide advice directly to school facility leaders using our new green cleaning assessment tool. Read more.

Removing a Key Barrier to Funding School Health Services. For the past three years, HSC has been working with advocates across the country to change the way school health services are funded. Last month, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services removed a key barrier to funding school health services: Schools are now eligible to receive reimbursement funding for health services provided to Medicaid-eligible students. This change is especially critical in light of the nation’s vast health disparities. Low-income and minority students are at increased risk of health problems that hinder learning and are more likely to attend schools with unhealthy environments. Read more.

Thank you and kudos to the many advocates, students, nurses, school facility managers, parents, educators, partners organizations and other leaders who have helped bring about these changes by raising your voices for healthy schools.

Plus: 2014 has been an exciting year for HSC here in Chicago! Take a look at our Chicago-based 2014 milestones for healthy schools.