Surgeon General Issues Charge to Education & Health Working Group

  • April 9, 2013
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At the end of March, Surgeon General Benjamin issued a charge to the Prevention Advisory Group, to convene a working group, recommending that it focus on connecting school health with each of the four directions of the National Prevention Strategy: Healthy and Safe Community Environments, Clinical and Community Preventive Services, Empowered People; and Elimination of Health Disparities.

Earlier this year, Healthy Schools Campaign and Trust for America’s Health released our Health In Mind report, which includes a series of recommendations to Secretaries Arne Duncan and Kathleen Sebelius regarding what the federal government can do to improve school wellness.

We are excited to see that one of our initial recommendations is moving forward, as Surgeon General Regina Benjamin and the Prevention Advisory Group of the National Prevention Council are now taking a stronger look at the role schools play in prevention and wellness.

At the end of March, Surgeon General Benjamin issued a charge to the Prevention Advisory Group, to convene a working group, recommending that it focus on connecting school health with each of the four directions of the National Prevention Strategy: Healthy and Safe Community Environments, Clinical and Community Preventive Services, Empowered People; and Elimination of Health Disparities.

This working group will be tasked with identifying strategies and creating a new set of recommendations for how school health can be addressed across the board. This group will include representatives from national stakeholder organizations, government agencies, private foundations, state agencies and local leaders.

As the Surgeon General writes:

“Health does not occur in the doctor’s office and hospitals only, health also occurs where we live, where we learn, where we work, where we play, and where we pray. The National Prevention Strategy shows that we all have a role to play in becoming a more healthy and fit nation. Creating healthy communities requires working together with a diverse group of partners that includes state and local policy makers, business leaders, individuals, their families and their communities working in partnership working in partnership with the federal government to promote prevention and wellness in our housing, transportation, education, workplace and environment programs.

“Nowhere is this partnership needed more than in our schools.The link between health and learning is clear. Healthy, active and well-nourished children are more likely to attend school, be engaged, and be ready to learn. Schools must support health – from assuring that children can be physically active and eat nourishing food, can learn in buildings with healthy air and fresh water, and, when needed, can provide access to health care.”

We applaud the Surgeon General and the Prevention Advisory Group on recognizing the importance of school health and the importance of coalition-building among all stakeholders in this area. We need to look beyond people in the field of education and begin asking what all stakeholders—health care professionals, school nurses, government agencies, parents, teachers—who care about our children and our schools can do. That’s why we’re excited for the launch of the Working Group on Health and Education.

The goal of the Working Group on Health and Education is to explore and determine what all sectors can do to make wellness an educational priority, not just at the federal level, but on the state and local levels.

We also see this group as an important step towards establishing a similar group that will create long-term solutions for addressing school wellness. As an example of our vision, at the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis, Vice President Al Gore established a working group that united a coalition of minds across the public and private sectors to work together to address HIV and AIDS. They developed a collaborative partnership that still exists today: The Forum for Collaborative HIV Research.

We are excited to be involved in this process as HSC President and CEO Rochelle Davis will serve as co-chair of the working group. We commend the Surgeon General for her leadership, and look forward to the next steps. Additionally, HSC members, Parents United for Healthy Schools parent leaders and other key community partners will meet with Surgeon General Benjamin this Thursday at Nathanael Greene Elementary to exchange ideas around education and wellness. This is a great opportunity for the Surgeon General to observe an exemplary neighborhood school where parents, teachers, school administrators and community partners have come together to create a model for the whole city, and the country, for healthy schools.

To learn more about HSC’s Health in Mind initiative and the report’s recommendations, visit www.healthinmind.org.