Youth has traditionally been synonymous with the notion of health, vitality and boundless energy -- particularly among those of us who feel a bit past our prime.
But in recent years, cultural shifts in exercise and eating habits have led to a decline in the health of our nation’s children, a move away from the vigorous, healthy lifestyle that we associate with youth.
According to a recent TV news report, 40 percent of children in Texas are overweight.
To combat this disturbing trend, the Cooper Institute® (CI) partnered two years ago with the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas (UWMD) to create the Healthy Zone School Recognition Program. Each year, a handful of select schools are recognized for their outstanding efforts to promote health and wellness among their students.
“We are so proud of our schools for leading the way in engaging teachers, students and parents in a joint effort to improve the health and wellness of our community," said Karin Klemm, McKinney ISD Health and PE Facilitator.
Evaluation of campuses for Healthy Zone or Healthy Zone in Training recognition revolves around how effectively those schools are addressing eight components of coordinated health: 1) health education; 2) healthy and safe school environment; 3) counseling and mental health services; 4) parent and community involvement; 5) staff wellness promotion; 6) health services; 7) physical education and 8) nutrition services.
Schools that are achieving outstanding results in all areas can apply for Healthy Zone recognition while schools seeking to improve some components can apply for Healthy Zone in Training status. Those schools receive support from CI to help them achieve their health goals and -- ideally -- to be promoted to the Healthy Zone School list.
In addition to CI’s expert support, Healthy Zone and Healthy Zone in Training schools also receive $1,500 in funding for Physical Education equipment and other PE, health or nutrition-related materials along with $1,500 for activity promotions.
Addressing all eight coordinated health areas effectively is no small task, and it has taken hard work, determination and creativity for these schools to transform their culture.
Walker Elementary Principal Deborah Sanchez is proud of the strides her campus has made. “We are so excited to be a Healthy Zone school!” she said. “Our students, parents and staff have all gotten on board to be fit and healthy!”
By implementing a multitude of strategies that range from the very simple -- hanging health-related posters around campus -- to far more involved projects such as organizing 5K events, these campuses are pushing forward to reduce childhood obesity and establish healthy habits that will benefit their students for years to come.
Nutrition is emphasized during class, at parties and in the cafeteria while activities like Walking Clubs engage parents and students in regular physical activity.
“We want the awareness of health and nutrition to be part of our students’ everyday lives,” said Susie Towber, principal of Minshew Elementary. “We want students to understand the importance of eating right and exercise. We want students to know that a healthy body leads to a growing mind.”
And growing possibilities for a longer, healthier future.
For more information on the Healthy Zone School Recognition Program visit www.healthyzoneschool.com.
About the author: Shane Mauldin is a MISD Communications Specialist.