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Volume 29, Number 6
November/December 2013

Healthy Students, Healthy Schools

New initiatives focus on students’ well-being


“Water first! Water first!” excited students shouted at field day at Henry Ford Elementary School in Redwood City, Calif. The cheer reverberates often through the school, a message taught to promote drinking water instead of soda or juice. At field day students also ran the Lettuce Run, took turns in the Carrot Relay, and answered riddles about produce.

All children in the Redwood City Elementary District are given a free water bottle to fill at water filtration systems in the schools and drink from throughout the day. And the district does all it can to engage families in wellness, from training parents to talk with other parents about the benefits of healthy eating and exercise to putting them in charge of health fairs and fitness runs at their schools.

Redwood City’s approach is one example of how a growing number of schools and school systems across the country are making health a part of children’s daily routines. The idea is that schools are responsible for children’s entire well-being, not just their academic success, and that the former fuels the latter.

Student health is not an entirely new focus, but for decades the education and health sectors rarely worked together in meaningful ways. And when schools did participate in health initiatives, they were seen as a sideline rather than a fundamental part of a school’s overall plan, according to Charles E. Basch, a professor of health and education at Teachers College, Columbia University. As long as student health was considered—if it was considered at all—as insignificant to academic performance, schools and districts were unlikely to devote resources to improving it.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.


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