By Rochelle Davis, President + CEO
I am proud of our accomplishments and the work we’ve done to support student health and wellness this year. We’ve spoken out on issues that affect children, advanced our programs and explored exciting new opportunities. We have built on the experiences and innovative work taking place in schools and communities as we look for innovative, long-term and comprehensive approaches to making schools healthier places for all students.
Greening Chicago Schoolyards
In 2018, we opened our 15th schoolyard as part of Space to Grow. Space to Grow, which Healthy Schools Campaign co-manages with Openlands, transforms Chicago schoolyards into beautiful and functional spaces to play, learn, garden and be outside. The schoolyards also use special design elements to help reduce neighborhood flooding. Combined, the 15 schoolyards can divert 2.5 million gallons of water from Chicago’s sewer system. Read more.
Launching a Chronic Absenteeism Awareness Campaign
We launched Here + Healthy, an initiative to raise awareness about the health-related causes of chronic absenteeism, which detracts from learning and is a proven early warning sign of academic risk and school dropout. This campaign, a partnership with Attendance Works, calls on organizations to educate and mobilize their members and raise awareness about both the causes and the proven solutions, so students can be in school and ready to learn. Read more.
Providing Comprehensive Support for Schools in Chicago
We have learned that our work with schools in Chicago is most effective when we layer programs for parents, teachers and principals together with supports for students and community engagement. We have been focusing our work in a cohort of schools, allowing us to provide intensive support and effectively use lessons learned to inform district policy that impacts more than 371,000 students. Read more.
Providing Training to Parents, Teachers and School Staff
Through our Space to Grow professional development and Parents United for Healthy Schools program, we continued to provide training and education to parents, teachers and school staff in Chicago, and helped them implement health and wellness policies and programs in their schools. Earlier this year, parent leaders collected school meal surveys and provided their findings directly to the district.
Advancing the Green Cleaning Movement
In addition to hosting the Green Clean Schools Track at the ISSA Show North America, the cleaning industry’s largest trade show, we also partnered with ISSA to develop a survey to benchmark the level of green cleaning adoption in schools and universities across the country. We found that more than 97 percent of schools are implementing green cleaning to some extent! This report will allow us to provide schools and universities with tools and resources they need to strengthen their green cleaning program and make sure all children attend school in clean and healthy facilities. Read more.
Connecting Learning + Health
We released a guide, in partnership with Alliance for a Healthier Generation, highlighting how school needs assessments, such as those required by ESSA, can help schools pinpoint specific problems (e.g., students missing school because of the flu) and identify ways to address those problems. This allows schools to provide their students with a supportive environment that will allow them to thrive. Read more.
Raising Student Voices in Support of Healthy School Food
Although the administration has rolled back standards for school food, we’ve continued to raise the voices of student chefs who understand why healthy school food is so important. As part of the Cooking up Change program, we brought teams of student chefs from across the country to Washington, D.C., to compete in the national finals and meet with their legislators. In November, we hosted the 12th Cooking up Change in Chicago. For the first time, student chefs were challenged with the task of creating a healthy on-the-go breakfast, providing new solutions to a challenging proposition for school meal programs. Read more.
Increasing Access to School Health Services
After successfully advocating for a policy change that allows schools to get Medicaid reimbursement for health services, we’re now working on implementation at the local, state and national levels. For the last two years, Healthy Schools Campaign and Trust for America’s Health have co-convened the Healthy Students, Promising Futures Learning Collaborative. This Collaborative brings together state teams that are interested in reimagining how we can provide health services for students who need them the most. Read more.
Launching a Video Series about Our Work
We started the year by releasing a video series that outlines our model and several key components of our work to address student health and wellness. The videos feature those who live our mission everyday: students, teachers, parents, principals and national leaders and have been watched by more than 1,600 people. Read more.
Raising Our Voice on Important Issues
This year, we continued to speak out about issues that impact the health and wellness of children. We outlined why gun violence is a health and wellness issue, why the proposed change to the public charge rule is bad for children and the importance of healthcare for all children.
In 2019, we will continue to advocate for the health and wellness of children across the country through our programming, policy work and by speaking out against injustices.