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AHA improves the health and well-being of Wake County residents by facilitating and supporting community initiatives.

Schools as the Heart of Health

As you saw on our news page, AHA just yesterday hosted an awards ceremony for 14 schools who are enjoying varying levels of success in implementing the Wake County Public Schools’ system-wide Wellness Policy, or their own, enhanced wellness policies in their schools. The Institute of Medicine’s recent Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention, a document I see as a roadmap for us all to follow when it comes to making our communities, our state and our nation healthier, recommends that we “strengthen schools as the heart of health.”

What does that mean, exactly?

I think we saw what that means when we visited a few of these schools over the past two months:

  • Enhanced opportunities for kids to be active at school – not just in PE class, though most of the schools that won awards have some level of ehancement to their PE curriculum to teach kids and youth the skills they need to ENJOY being active for a lifetime. That’s quality PE.
  • Enhanced opportuniites in the classroom to be active; active recess; before and after school activities that staff and students can enjoy
  • Enhances opportunities for kids and youth to make healthier food choices. This happens not only in the cafeteria, but many of the schools we visited had policies in place that changed what is sold for fundraisers (fun runs and walks instead of fast-food based spirit nights, for example); changes to what happens to celebrate birthdays (fewer sweets); and even healthier foods for teacher and staff meetings and celebrations

Overall, the gold winners had created a culture — down to the student created artwork on the walls of the schools depicting dance and active play of all types; photos of kids enjoying tasting new foods in the cafeteria during National Nutrition Month.

Schools can be the heart of wellness. They are a place that touches every family’s life at one point or another along the continuum of life. We all have a stake in our children’s health. And while that health starts at home, it’s heart is at school.

P.S. Yesterday, we received an email forwarded from our friends at the John Rex Endowment. The email was from Liz, a tutor and librararian at Jefferson District Library in Southern, CA. One of her students, Emily, found this great resource from culinary schools about healthy eating for kids. Thanks, Emily for passing this along!

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