Understanding that physical and mental health, emotional well-being, and positive development are critical to academic success, Boston Public Schools (BPS) Superintendent Dr. Carol R. Johnson has begun to transform the district’s capacity to meet the health needs of Boston children.
In September 2010, the BPS Health and Wellness Task Force completed Healthy Connections, the district’s strategic plan to improve the health and wellness of students; the overarching goal of which is to actively promote the health and wellness of all BPS students to advance both their healthy development and readiness to learn. Since the release of the Healthy Connections strategic plan, BPS has made extensive efforts to bring more health education, physical education, and physical activity to schools; improve the quality of physical education, school meals and snacks, school-based health care, out-of-school time services, and health education for our students; and increase equity of health and wellness resources across our schools.
The four preliminary outcome goals are:
1) Improving student fitness;
2) promoting healthy student behaviors and engagement;
3) improving school-based health care;
4) create a healthy school environment
To promote student health and wellness, BPS is implementing a Coordinated School Health (CSH) approach. CSH is defined as “planned, organized set of health-related programs, policies, and services coordinated at both the district and individual school levels to meet the health and safety needs of K-12 students.” [i]
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,[ii] the eight key components of CSH are:
- Health Education
- Physical Education
- Health Services
- Nutrition Services
- Counseling, Psychological, and Social Services
- Healthy and Safe School Environment
- Health Promotion for Staff
- Family/Community Involvement
The CSH approach recognizes the importance of aligning activities across many areas to achieve any one health outcome. For example, a school implementing the CSH approach will improve students’ eating habits by simultaneously educating students about nutrition, revising school lunch policies and menus, partnering with local farms to provide fresh fruits and vegetables, and talking with families about healthy eating habits.
BPS created the Health and Wellness Departmentin 2010 to coordinate the district’s cross-departmental implementation of CSH along with leading physical education/activity and health education improvement and helping build the capacity of schools to create healthier environments overall for students, families, and staff. The Health and Wellness Department leads the district’s efforts to increase the quantity and improve the quality of health education, physical education and physical activity in schools; improve staff wellness; and create a healthier school environment in which the healthy choice is the easy choice.