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Disease Prevention

Federally Mandated School Wellness Policies and Other Health Strategies Due July 1

A recent survey of parents of school-aged children conducted by the national Action for Healthy Kids consortium found that while the majority of parents want their children to get healthier food and more exercise at school, nearly 85% were unaware that federal law requires their schools to develop comprehensive wellness policies addressing these issues by July 1, 2006.

They are also unaware that the law specifies that parents, among other key stakeholders, must be involved from the beginning in designing those district policies, the survey found.

To fill this information gap and help schools meet the new federal mandate with policies that make a real difference, the Healthy Schools Campaign conducted a series of public awareness programs entitled "The Student Body Challenge: Making Student Health and Fitness a School Policy." The first step was a series of Community Forums designed to inform local communities about school wellness policies and the role they can play in improving the school food environment, along with other school-based health strategies.

"There is an unprecedented, time-limited opportunity to make a real impact on school wellness," said Rochelle Davis, founding executive director of the Healthy Schools Campaign. "Parents, health advocates and other concerned citizens are in a unique position to get involved in shaping their school environments in the areas of healthy eating, nutrition education and physical activity."

Under the new Federal mandate, each school will be required to adopt a Wellness Policy that includes:

    (1) nutrition guidelines for all foods sold on school campus during the school day;

    (2) setting school goals for nutrition education and physical activity;

    (3) establishing community participation in creating local wellness policies; and

    (4) creating a plan for measuring implementation of these wellness policies.

The Healthy Schools Campaign is publishing and distributing a step-by-step guide, including a model school wellness policy on CD-ROM that can be adapted by school districts to fit their local needs.

These initiatives are a response to the growing epidemic of childhood obesity and related illnesses among children and teens, which is linked with the consumption of nutrient-poor fast food and decreased physical activity. The sharp rise in the number of children diagnosed with type II diabetes and other obesity-related health problems may even result to shortened life expectancy for the current generation of school children.

"Schools can positively impact student health. By improving nutrition and physical education and by creating health-based standards for the foods sold in schools, we can improve both student health and the learning environment," said Davis. "To continue to serve unhealthy foods and not teach basics of nutrition would be to act without regard for the next generation."

In Illinois, the Healthy Schools Campaign (HSC) is a leading authority on healthy school environments and an increasingly powerful political voice for people who want healthier children, better education and a cleaner environment. HSC works with a broad network of individuals and organizations that includes parents, teachers, school administrators, students, public health advocates, education advocates and community leaders on issues such as indoor air quality management and sustainable school design, green cleaning, diesel school bus emissions, hazardous waste, and the growing problem of childhood obesity.

For more information on the Healthy Schools Campaign, visit

© 2006 Health Resources Publishing