Monday, November 17, 2014

Kansas Health Foundation launches effort to improve school wellness

KHI News Service

KANSAS CITY, KAN.  — The Kansas Health Foundation is teaming with local education leaders to raise awareness of student health programs and help parents get involved with wellness committees that already dot districts across the state.

Federal law requires all public schools participating in the National School Lunch Program to create local school wellness policies.

But a foundation survey found that parents are largely unaware of the committees that form those policies. The survey found most parents want more information about school wellness programs, and 40 percent of them want to participate in forming policies but don't know how.

In response, the health foundation is starting an initiative called Team Up for Kansas Kids to get information about student health practices in the hands of parents and local educators.

“The Kansas Health Foundation is dedicated to providing all Kansans with the opportunity to live a healthy life – and that means promoting wellness at a young age,” said Steve Coen, president and CEO of the Kansas Health Foundation. “Team Up for Kansas Kids aims to bridge the gap between those with the most influence on a child’s lifelong health and wellness – family members and school leaders.”

The foundation unveiled a website Wednesday with research studies, data and other resources for parents and educators.

The site includes statements about the positive effect that exercise and eating breakfast have on student brain activity and, ultimately, achievement.

Tammy Bartels, president of the Kansas Parent Teacher Association, said schools have an important role to play in forming children's nutrition and exercise habits, which affect their academic performance.

"Parents want to know their kids are learning healthy habits during school hours, and they want to help implement wellness programs that will ensure their kids succeed,” Bartels said. “Healthy students are better learners, and an integrated approach to support wellness before, during and after the school day will help our kids reach their full potential.”

The Kansas Health Foundation is the primary funder of the Kansas Health Institute, which is the parent organization of the editorially independent KHI News Service.