Tips for Implementing a School Wellness Program

Association of Educators
May 22, 2012 — 1,277 views  

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 17 percent of children and adolescents aged 2-19 are obese. This equates to 12.5 million American children who are at a higher risk in the future for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and other diseases associated with being overweight. Childhood obesity is a problem that educators must take an initiative in by placing greater emphasis on a healthy mind and a healthy body. Implementing a school wellness program may be the most beneficial way of doing this.  

The National Association of State Boards of Education (NABE) states, "Health and success in school are interrelated. Schools cannot achieve their primary mission of education if students and staff are not healthy and fit physically, mentally and socially." The CDC reports since 1980, the number of children in the United States who are considered obese has nearly tripled. The involvement of schools in the fight against childhood obesity can help put a stop to this growing trend.

Schools can provide students with the tools to create healthy eating habits through a school wellness program. A school or school system can implement a wellness program in a variety of ways. The Institute for Alternative Futures offers examples of doing this including incorporating high-quality physical education into the classroom to encourage increased physical activity and teaching health education to convey the components of maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle. 

"Curricula are more likely to be effective in improving student health behaviors when they teach skills needed to adopt healthy behaviors, provide ample opportunities to practice those skills and focus on helping students overcome barriers adopting behaviors," stated the 2004 State Education Standard report by the CDC.

Providing nutritional food services is also an important aspect of a school wellness program. This can encourage healthy eating by offering students lunches and snacks low in fat and high in essential nutrients. In recent years many schools have removed sodas and sugary snacks from vending machines in an effort to promote healthy lunch choices. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a National School Lunch Program (NSLP) that can provide nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free meals to students. Schools should check the program eligibility requirements to see if they qualify.

Involving parents and the communities in a school wellness program can increase its chances for success. Schools must work with parents so healthy behaviors can be reinforced at home. Childhood obesity is the responsibility of both the school and the parents, so the more the two can work together, the more likely the childhood obesity epidemic can be reversed.

Association of Educators