Sharing Strategies to Support Student Health

December 12, 2013

Diverse stakeholders come together to support student health.

By Alex Mays, Writer and Policy Analyst 

Recently I had the opportunity to attend the American School Health Association’s (ASHA) 87th annual conference. Hundreds of school health professionals nationwide came to Myrtle Beach, SC, to learn from one another about efforts taking place across the country to support school health. It was three days full of dynamic discussions: Workshops covered everything from evidence-based physical activity programs to innovative models for delivering school health services to strategies for increasing health education. 

The conference also provided an excellent opportunity to connect with existing and new partners and learn about the exciting work they’re leading to promote healthier school environments. ASHA does a wonderful job of bringing together a diverse group of stakeholders and provides multiple opportunities to brainstorm and support each other’s efforts.

I had the chance to share the work Healthy Schools Campaign is doing to develop a health and wellness indicator for the new Illinois school report card. This presentation was part of a workshop on health and wellness indicators in education accountability systems, and two other presenters on the panel discussed the efforts they’ve been leading in their states to integrate health and wellness into education accountability systems. For our part, our work on Health in Mind (www.healthinmind.org) in Chicago has helped us to recognize the impact that reporting health and wellness measures can have in motivating schools to support healthier school environments.

For the past two years, we’ve been working with a group of Illinois stakeholders to support the inclusion of a comprehensive health and wellness indicator on the new Illinois report card. Our current indicator reflects all the components of a healthy school environment, including environmental health, physical activity, school food and school health services. It was exciting to share this work at ASHA and learn about new strategies for advancing this effort in Illinois.

I also had the opportunity to present with Illinois State University’s Dr. Adrian Lyde and Dr. Mark Temple, who have worked with HSC over the past year to examine how our particular model leads to social change. Dr. Lyde and Dr. Temple shared the results from their research and discussed ways that other organizations could implement the strategies that have contributed to HSC’s success.

Thank you to ASHA for coordinating such an informative conference and providing advocates across the country with the opportunity to come together and strategize about how to advance school health. It was great to share HSC’s work with others, form new partnerships and learn about opportunities for supporting our own work and the work of others. At HSC, we will continue to work with our partners, including ASHA, to support efforts at the local, state and federal levels to ensure all students can attend school in an healthy environment.