Michele J. Orza, ScD
When they are not at home, most children spend the bulk of their time at school. The school environment can significantly impact their health and well being, which in turn can affect their educational outcomes. Although some people may equate it simply with the nurse's office, school health now encompasses a wide range of policies and activities. Indeed, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (last reauthorized as the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001) includes dozens of provisions concerning everything from physical education program requirements to access to quality mental health care to healthy, high-performance school buildings. Further, the Child Nutrition and Women Infants and Children (WIC) Reauthorization Act of 2004, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, and new nutrition standards for the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs all address facets of health in schools, from local wellness policies to aligning school meals with current science.
With so many opportunities concerning children's health, schools are fertile ground for the health-in-all-policies approach promoted by public health leaders. But school health and wellness mandates are among many with which school districts must contend, and they compete for attention and resources with numerous other educational priorities. And, like public health entities, schools operate at the intersection of federal, state, and local policy and grapple with similar challenges to working across multiple levels and sectors.
This Forum session built on previous sessions on health-in-all-policies approaches and food and health. Speakers provided overviews of school clinical and behavioral health services, school nutrition, and a comprehensive approach to health and well being embodied in a variety of healthy school acts around the country. They also provided specific examples of initiatives and results from the state of Louisiana; the Jackson, Mississippi, school district; and the District of Columbia.
For a comprehensive overview of the state of school health, see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “School Health Policies and Practices Study (SHPPS),” updated January 20, 2012.
See also related programming from the Forum:
- “High Hopes: Public Health Approaches to Reducing the Need for Health Care” (Background Paper No. 78, September 27, 2010)
- "Unusual Suspects: Focusing on Nonmedical Determinants to Improve the Nation’s Health” (Forum Session, November 5, 2010)
- “Food Glorious Food: Supply, Consumption, and Consequences for Health” (Forum Session, May 4, 2012)
- “The Primary Care Safety Net: Strained, Transitioning, Critical” (Background Paper No. 79, September 28, 2010)
- “Implementing School Health Programs for Better Child Health and Academic Success” (Forum Session, March 9, 2007)
- “Got Junk? The Federal Role in Regulating ‘Competitive’ Foods” (Issue Brief No. 835, December 11, 2009)
- “No Free Lunch? Current Challenges Facing the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs” (Background Paper No. 72, December 11, 2009)