Research documents what educators know: Healthy students are better prepared to learn and succeed in school.
Schools must address health and wellness in order for all kids to learn and achieve.
The nation’s children are struggling academically and could become the first generation to live shorter and less healthy lives than their parents. At the same time, our nation faces a growing achievement gap that research increasingly connects to health disparities. Yet current health and education policy misses several simple, vital opportunities to boost academic success through health promotion and school wellness.
It is for this reason that Healthy Schools Campaign and Trust for America’s Health present Health in Mind: Improving Education Through Wellness. This report details immediate solutions that can help close the achievement gap and create a healthy future for all children. We invite you to learn more about the initiative and download the report, below.
Educators know that healthy students are better prepared to learn and succeed in school. It’s also known that people who are better educated and obtain a college education have lower rates of health conditions and longer life expectancy. Yet current health and education policy misses several simple but vital opportunities to boost academic success through health promotion and school wellness. The nation’s current generation of students could become the first to live shorter and less healthy lives than their parents. At the same time, our nation faces a growing achievement gap: Students who attend school in communities with lower socioeconomic status have lower academic outcomes than students in higher socioeconomic status communities. Overwhelmingly, the underserved communities predominantly comprise ethnic minority residents, which propagates a racial chasm. Research is increasingly confirming a link between the achievement gap and health disparities.
For this reason, Healthy Schools Campaign and Trust for America’s Health developed Health in Mind: Improving Education Through Wellness. This effort focuses on policy recommendations for immediate, practical changes at the federal level to help close the achievement gap and create a healthy future for all children.
The link between health and learning is clear: Healthy, active and well-nourished children are more likely to attend school, be ready to learn and stay engaged in class. However, the school setting often does not support health. Too many students spend their days in buildings with unhealthy air, limited opportunities for physical activity and inadequate access to fresh water, nutritious food or a school nurse. Many students come to school with one or more health problems that compromise their ability to learn. The amount of chronic diseases—including asthma, obesity and diabetes—has doubled among children over the past several decades. This has implications not only for children’s long-term health but also for their opportunities to learn and succeed at school. This challenge is especially critical in light of the nation’s vast health disparities. Low-income and minority students are at increased risk of health problems that hinder learning. These students are more likely to attend schools with unhealthy environments. Unless we address these disparities in health status and school environments, efforts to close the education achievement gap will be compromised.
The Current Landscape of Efforts
Many leaders from all sectors—federal, state and local governments, along with nonprofits and private industries—have been working to more thoughtfully enhance the role of school health in academic achievement. At the federal level, the Obama administration has made addressing the achievement gap a top priority, while demonstrating a strong commitment to disease prevention and health promotion with initiatives such as the First Lady’s Let’s Move! campaign and the release of the nation’s first National Prevention Strategy. The purpose of Health in Mind is to delineate additional strategies that federal agencies can deploy to create the conditions for health and learning in our nation’s schools. These immediate, practical strategies can serve as a starting point for broader change in the health and education sectors.
Creating the Conditions for Health
To truly support learning, schools must create the conditions for health. Given the strong connection between health and learning, schools must recognize health as central to their core mission of student learning. That means creating a healthier school environment, which supports students’ well-being and builds a foundation for learning. In this environment, good nutrition, physical activity, basic safety, clean air and water, access to care and education about how to make healthy choices allow students to thrive. In a healthy school environment, students learn—through lessons and through example—to value their own health and wellness. The Health in Mind recommendations reflect a new approach to making health and wellness part of the school experience. Wellness is not relegated to an occasional health lesson or physical education class—it is part of math, science, lunch and everything in between. It means providing teachers with professional development related to children’s physical and emotional development, and integrating health into every subject, reward system and classroom management strategy. Achieving this ultimate vision will require leadership and commitment at many levels, from classrooms to Washington, D.C. The goal and challenge of Health in Mind is to make concrete changes that fall within the federal government’s role and can have a significant and sustainable impact on two national priorities: reducing the achievement gap and transforming our health care system.
The full Executive Summary can be downloaded below.
At the heart of Health in Mind are policy recommendations for immediate, practical changes at the federal level to help close the achievement gap and create a healthy future for all children. Download the Health in Mind Recommendations below.
We believe that prioritizing health in schools will yield lifelong benefits for the 52 million children currently in America’s schools—and that our nation’s future hinges on giving all children a chance for a healthy, brighter tomorrow. Download our full Vision Statement below.
The following organizations have signed on to this vision for healthy students and healthy schools.
A World Fit For Kids!
Advocates for Better Children's Diets
Advocates for Community Wellness
Alabama State Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance
American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance
American Association of Poison Control Centers
American Association of School Administrators
American Cancer Society
American College Health Association
American Council on Exercise
American Federation of Teachers
American Lung Association
American Medical Student Association
American Public Health Association
American School Health Association
California School Nurses Organization
Center for Collaborative Solutions
Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council
Center for Health, Environment & Justice
Center for Science in the Public Interest
Chicago Botanic Garden
Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition
Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition (WA State)
Colorado Association of School Nurses
Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine
Directors of Health Promotion and Education
Foundation for Recovery
Give Every Child A Chance
Gorge Grown Food Network
Governor's Council for Physical Fitness
Greenwood District UMC Health Alliance
Harrison Central High School
Harvey Public Schools District 152
Health & Disability Advocates
Health & Medicine Policy Research Group
Healthy Future, Inc
Healthy Howard, Inc.
Illinois Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance
Illinois Association of School Nurses
Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition
Illinois Public Health Institute
Integrative Health & Wellness Strategies
Ithaca City School District
Kentucky Voices for Health
Lawndale Christian Health Center
Marillac Social Center
Mass In Motion/Northern Berkshire Community Coalition
Michigan Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance
Missouri Association of Local Public Health Agencies
Montana Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance
Namaste Charter School
National Alliance for Medicaid in Education
National Assembly on School-Based Health Care
National Association for Sport and Physical Education
National Association of Chronic Disease Directors
National Association of County and City Health Officials
National Association of School Nurses
National Association of Secondary School Principals
National Association of State Boards of Education
National Association of State School Nurse Consultants
National Athletic Trainers' Association
National Center for Children's Vision and Eye Health at Prevent Blindness America
National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education
National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA)
NEA Health Information Network
New Jersey Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance
North Carolina Center for Health and Wellness - UNC Asheville
Northern Berkshire Community Coalition
Oregon Public Health Institute
Oregon School-Based Health Care Network
Palmetto Cycling Coalition
Paradigm HealthCare Services
Parents for Public Schools
Rural Health Network of South Central New York
Safe States Alliance
San Clemente Collaborative
San Jose Unified School District
School Health Corporation
School Nutrition Association
Society for Public Health Education
South Dakota Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance
St. Johns County School District
Start School Later
The Colorado Legacy Foundation
The Mirror Project, Inc.
The Ohio Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance
United States Tennis Association (USTA)
Voices for America's Children
Wells Elementary School
West Chester University Center for Healthy Schools
Western Suffolk BOCES Student Support Services
Wyoming Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance
Youth Empowered Solutions (YES!)
To add your organization's name to this list, sign onto our visition here.
Health in Mind is presented by Healthy Schools Campaign in collaboration with Trust for America's Health.
Healthy Schools Campaign
Healthy Schools Campaign is a leading authority on healthy school environments and a voice for people who care about our environment, our children and education. HSC advocates for policies and practices that allow all students, teachers and staff to learn and work in a healthy school environment. For the past 10 years, HSC has focused much of its work in Chicago, working to improve the food and fitness environment in Chicago public schools. HSC’s programs focus on identifying and supporting agents of change—including parents, teachers, students, principals and school nurses—and helping them make changes both at their individual school and at all levels of decision-making that shape the school’s health and wellness environment.
Trust for America’s Health
Trust for America’s Health is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to saving lives by protecting the health of every community and working to make disease prevention a national priority.
With Support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation supports children, families, and communities as they strengthen and create conditions that propel vulnerable children to achieve success as individuals and as contributors to the larger community and society.
Health in Mind is based on a vision statement for healthy students and healthy schools. More than 70 organizations representing the nation’s education and health stakeholders have signed on to this vision.
Health in Mind strategies were developed with broad input from national stakeholders in education and children’s health. Healthy Schools Campaign and Trust for America’s Health hosted three day-long forums at the Washington, D.C. headquarters of the American Federation of Teachers to discuss tangible, cost-effective methods for integrating health and wellness in schools. More than 75 organizations took part in these forums; many additionally participated in follow-up discussions about the issues that emerged at the forums. The Health in Mind recommendations were developed with consideration for the broad range of diverse opinions shared through this process. Healthy Schools Campaign and Trust for America’s Health gratefully recognize the input shared during this valuable process.