New Report Calls for Federal Action
Health in Mind, a new report from Healthy Schools Campaign (HSC) and Trust for America's Health (TFAH), details immediate solutions that can help close the achievement gap and create a healthy future for all children.
American children are struggling academically and the nation faces a growing achievement gap that is increasingly tied to health disparities—today's children could become the first generation to live shorter and less healthy lives than their parents, notes the report.
Health in Mind offers a strong framework for addressing the nation's most urgent health and education challenges by outlining strategies within the current regulatory and budget framework of the Department of Education and Department of Health and Human Services that the administration can utilize to better the conditions for health and learning in schools. The report also examines the research connecting health disparities with educational outcomes and presents case studies of innovative on-the-ground practices across the nation.
"We've never met a parent, teacher or school leader who didn't recognize that healthy students are better prepared to learn," said Rochelle Davis , President and CEO of HSC, a national advocacy organization that focuses much of its work on improving the food and fitness environment in Chicago schools. "But the truth is that vast health disparities exist in our nation and far too many children attend school in environments that do not support their health. Unless we address these challenges, our efforts to close the achievement gap will be compromised. The consequences are enormous for children's learning and for their lifetime health."
Health in Mind presents research, policy analysis and immediate recommendations focused on:
-Preparing teachers and principals to promote student health and wellness;
-Engaging parents in school health;
-Incorporating health and wellness into school metrics, accountability and recognition programs;
-Building the Department of Education's capacity to address student health and wellness; and
-Placing a school nurse in every school.
"We are beginning to see an important shift in the way the nation addresses health and wellness," said Jeffrey Levi , PhD, executive director of TFAH. "With Health in Mind and the National Prevention Strategy, we've begun to move toward integrating and thinking about health in all of the contexts—education, transportation, housing and other areas—that impact health. Specifically focusing on the connection between health and school will ensure students can do as well as possible academically and are healthier."
"We know that health and education are inextricably linked; with that knowledge, we must shift how we approach both wellness and the school day," said Dr. Gail Christopher , vice president for program strategy at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. "The Health in Mind report points us forward. Our communities truly can develop children who are healthy, smart and strong. Doing so will take creativity and commitment from leaders at all levels. I am confident we can rise to that challenge."
The report follows a May 2012 event at which HSC and TFAH, with the support of the nation's largest education unions, presented a set of recommendations to US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and US Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius . At the event, both Sec. Duncan and Sec. Sebelius publicly expressed their support for the goals that would form the basis for Health in Mind.
In December 2012, 10 members of Congress signed on to a letter to Sec. Duncan and Sec. Sebelius expressing their support for the recommendations. More than 70 organizations representing the nation's health and education advocates have signed on to the Health in Mind vision statement.
For more information or to view the full report, please visit healthinmind.org.