Urban School Health and Wellness Leaders Address Issues of Health and Education Equity
CHICAGO (October 3, 2017)—Action for Healthy Kids is bringing together health and wellness leaders from 29 of the nation’s largest school districts this week for the fifth annual convening of the Urban School Wellness Coalition in Denver. The coalition, which represents over 7,500 schools and 4.6 million students, will focus on the Whole School, Whole Child (WSCC) model—a 10-step approach to ensuring the health, safety and wellbeing of students, staff and school environments—and how it can be integrated into district infrastructure, policies and practices to support positive health outcomes and academic success for students in urban settings.
Action for Healthy Kids established the Urban School Wellness Coalition in 2013 at the request of urban school leaders and prompted by the unique challenges faced by urban school districts when it comes to supporting student health and academic success. In addition to budget constraints and competing priorities faced by most school districts across the country, many urban school districts serve a significant number of low-income and impoverished students and families, and struggle with issues that can perpetuate inequities and hinder their efforts to close academic achievement gaps.
“In order for urban districts to address health and wellness in a meaningful way, they must make a strong commitment to infrastructure that ensures district-wide coordination around the Whole School, Whole Child model,” said Hannah Laughlin, Director of Field Operations and Urban School Wellness Coalition Coordinator with Action for Healthy Kids. “The Urban School Wellness Coalition exemplifies how sharing best practices and providing a network to brainstorm ideas can lead to significant, positive changes that support the connection between health and learning.”
The 29 school districts that make up the coalition share a vision for urban students to be cognitively, socially, emotionally and physically healthy in support of positive education and life outcomes. To this end, the coalition is committed to helping urban school districts inform, coordinate and enhance the development of wellness practices and policies serving the whole child in support of health and education equity. The coalition facilitates discussion and coordinates joint efforts around mutually important issues, shares best practices, and works to inform urban education leaders on the importance of student health as a driver of academic success.
The Urban School Wellness Coalition is also releasing its first impact paper, Developing Healthy, Successful Urban Students Through School District Infrastructure, to help urban district leaders understand how to best model and progress their infrastructure for health and academic success. The report finds that, despite decades of investing in WSCC supports, such as progressing social emotional learning or advancing required Local School Wellness Policies, school districts have made these investments in a manner that is not strongly tied to district strategic plans or goals and disconnected from the link between health and learning, diminishing their effectiveness. However, in recent years, urban districts are working to develop more coordinated approaches around the WSCC model, elevating the importance of health and wellness work by linking to education outcomes, resulting in stronger wellness policies (as scored with the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity’s Wellness School Assessment Tool (WellSAT 2.0), and infrastructure needs to support full implementation.
The report highlights real district and community-level changes that demonstrate a greater investment in infrastructure to support the implementation of the WSSC model and ultimately student health. For example, Los Angeles Unified School District is establishing a Wellness Programs Department within the Student Health and Human Services Division and a dedicated director responsible for coordinating across all departments working on the 10 components of the WSCC model, while in Denver, a community tax levy was approved to increase funding for WSCC-related work.
Beginning with 10 member districts in 2013, the coalition expanded to 20 members by 2016 and is expanding this year to include nine new members*. Member districts are from 18 states and the District of Columbia and include:
- Austin Independent School District (TX)*
- Baltimore City Schools (Md.)*
- Boston Public Schools (Mass.)
- Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (N.C.)
- Chicago Public Schools (Ill.)
- Cleveland Public Schools (OH)*
- Columbus City Schools (OH)
- Dallas Independent School District (TX)
- Denver Public Schools (Colo.)
- Des Moines Schools (IA)*
- Detroit Public Schools Community District (Mich.)
- District of Columbia Public Schools (DC)
- Duval County Public Schools (Jacksonville, Fla.)
- Fort Worth Independent School District (TX)
- Jefferson County Public Schools (Louisville, Ky.)*
- Los Angeles Unified School District (Calif.)
- Mesa Public Schools (Ariz.)
- Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools (Tenn.)*
- Minneapolis Public Schools (Minn.)*
- New York City Department of Education (N.Y.)
- Oakland Unified School District (Cali.)
- Oklahoma City Public Schools (Okla.)
- Orange County Public Schools (Orlando, Fla.)*
- Prince George’s County Public Schools (Md.)*
- San Francisco Unified School District (Cali.)
- School District of Palm Beach County (Fla.)
- School District of Philadelphia (Pa.)
- Seattle Public Schools (Wash.)
- Shelby County Schools (Memphis, Tenn.)
To access the full impact paper and learn more about or connect with the Urban School Wellness Coalition, visit ActionforHealthyKids.org/Urban-School-Wellness. The Urban School Wellness Coalition is sponsored by CSX Transportation as part of its larger committment to Action for Healthy Kids since 2013, and by PhysEdGear.
About Action for Healthy Kids®
Action for Healthy Kids® is a nationwide grassroots network mobilizing school professionals, families and communities to take actions that improve school foods, nutrition education and physical education for all students. With funding opportunities, expert technical assistance, and our flagship program, Game On, Action for Healthy Kids provides full support to schools and families to develop healthy school environments where children thrive. To learn more about the ways our 120,000+ volunteer network is helping to make every kid healthy and ready to learn, visit us at ActionforHealthyKids.org , on Facebook (act4healthykids) and on Twitter (@Act4HlthyKids).
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