With the Institute of Medicine, Connecting Education and Health

May 27, 2014

Key strategies to connect health and wellness within the education sector.

Last September, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) Roundtable on Population Health Improvement convened a workshop of its members along with outside experts to discuss and explore public health within the context of other societal objectives, such as economic growth, effective public transportation and better schools. More specifically, IOM asked this multi-sector group to engage around three core issues: supporting fruitful interaction between primary care providers and public health institutions, strengthening governmental public health, and exploring community actions that influence public health.

In March, IOM published a report called Applying a Health Lens to Decision Making in Non-Health Sectors, which is a summary of the September workshop. The report explores potential health policy effects in a number of relevant public domains, including education, transportation and housing.

HSC was honored to be part of this important discussion, particularly from the standpoint of our National Collaborative on Health and Education that launched earlier this year. The work of the National Collaborative, which HSC co-chairs with Trust for America’s Health (TFAH), brings together advocates, policymakers, school stakeholders and funders to work toward more fully integrating the education and health sectors. This effort is at the heart of the IOM report.

One of the challenges/opportunities of the Affordable Care Act is to figure out how to better deliver fundamental, preventative health care services to the public. The answer: to meet people where they are at. For our purpose, that means working with schools to build their capacity to promote health and to address student health care needs. And on the flip side, to build the health care sector’s capacity to engage the community through schools.

We’re also pleased that on pages 23-24 of the IOM report, HSC president and CEO Rochelle Davis was able to share key strategies that HSC employs to connect health and wellness within the education sector. Here is an excerpt from the published report that highlights these strategies.

Data-Based Decision Making

The education sector is placing significant focus on developing data systems to better understand the factors that affect learning and to inform data-based education policy decisions. Given the impact that student health has on academic performance…it is crucial to include information about student health and about how schools support student health among the data collected and in the analysis of student success.

[Editor’s note: HSC was successful in getting the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights to — for the first time — include questions about school health services in its biennial survey, which is completed by more than 99% of the country’s schools. More on that here. This will go a long way toward achieving this objective.]

Transparency

Student performance (i.e. test scores) has long been used to measure a school’s performance, and to compare schools within a district or state. However…there is little information in school reports about anything connected to health and wellness.

[HSC] is working to integrate health and wellness into school progress reports at both the district and state levels. In Chicago, for example, school progress reports include whether or not the school has a Healthy Schools Certification from the USDA.

Professional Development

The education sector is reevaluating how it prepares teachers, principals and administrators to meet the needs of students…[HSC] works to ensure that educators also have the knowledge and skills to support student health. In Chicago, [HSC] offers a program called Fit to Learn for teachers and principals on how to incorporate healthy eating and physical activity into their classrooms and schools.

Multi-Sector Resource Support

Because schools face many barriers in accessing resources from the health sector, [HSC] is advocating for relevant changes to the Medicaid reimbursement rules. [HSC] has also launched a program called Space to Grow to redesign schoolyards to provide places for active play and outdoor education, and is partnering with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District and the Chicago Department of Water Management to build these playgrounds [with] green infrastructures that will also help address storm water management issues.

Click here to access the full report.