At HSC, we’re Chicago-based and nationally minded: we have a special commitment to supporting wellness for the 400,000 students in Chicago Public Schools and we believe the lessons we learn here on the ground—along with the lessons of parents, teachers, students, principals and others across the nation—can inform change at the national level.
We have taken lessons from our work in Chicago and joined with others across the country to work for system-level changes in both the education and health sectors at a national level. Our ultimate vision is a system in which schools are better able to create the conditions that support student health and wellness.
Health in Mind began in 2012 when, with input from hundreds of organizations, Healthy Schools Campaign and Trust for America’s Health released their report, Health in Mind: Improving Education Through Wellness, which includes recommendations for federal agencies to better support the conditions of health in schools across the country. These recommendations and this work are about taking on the achievement gap, addressing health disparities, and ensuring that all children have the opportunity to be healthy and ready to learn when they come to school each day.
Today, the work is much broader and includes the efforts of the National Collaborative for Education and Health. Read on to learn about the specifics of this effort, what this work looks like on the ground in schools and how you can get involved.
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 students to learn and achieve. Our 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 links to health disparities. Low-income and minority students are at increased risk of health problems that hinder learning. These students are also 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. Learn more about the link between health disparities and the achievement gap on HSC’s blog.
It is for this reason that Healthy Schools Campaign has partnered with Trust for America’s Health and others to launch Health in Mind: Improving Education Through Wellness with the support of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
Health in Mind reflects a new approach to making health and wellness part of the school experience.
Our health system and our education system have the potential to work together in ways that can help close the achievement gap and reverse alarming trends in children’s health. Recognizing this connection and acting to strengthen collaboration between the health and education sectors is one of the most important steps we can take to support the success and well-being of the next generation.
Creating the Conditions for Health at School
To truly support learning, schools must create the conditions for health. In a healthy school environment, educators recognize that health is an essential foundation to schools’ core mission of learning. 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. 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.
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 sector-level changes that can have a significant and sustainable impact on two national priorities: reducing the achievement gap and transforming our health care system.
At the heart of the Health in Mind initiative is a vision statement for healthy students and healthy schools. Download the full vision statement.
With input from practitioners, policymakers, academic and others, Healthy Schools Campaign and Trust for America’s Health have identified two critical areas for improving the conditions that support student health: integrating health into education data systems and re-thinking school health services.
Integrating Health and Wellness into Education Data Systems
In recent years, education policy has included a great deal of focus on data and metrics used to evaluate schools and districts. With few exceptions, these metrics have focused on specific academic skills without tracking key factors—such as health and wellness—that are known to have an impact on learning.
Incorporating metrics for health and wellness into data tracking systems, research and school report cards would provide educators, policy makers and the public with a more complete understanding of how student health and wellness are shaping learning and academic outcomes.
Data can serve as a decision-making compass, not stigmatizing parents and students but instead helping schools and school districts effectively drive improvement strategies. If accountability systems recognized the full experience of a student—including health conditions that might impede learning—educators could develop a more comprehensive understanding of student performance, and could deploy resources to schools and students at greatest risk. Parents and community members also benefit from knowing more about how their schools are supporting and promoting student health and well-being.
For example, the state of Texas responded to the childhood obesity epidemic by requiring an increase in physical activity in schools with an emphasis on tracking students’ fitness levels and monitoring academic outcomes. Read more about this initiative on HSC’s blog.
In another state-level example, HSC successfully advocated for a school wellness indicator on the Illinois state school report card and continues to speak up for a more comprehensive measure.
You can read more about this issue on HSC’s blog:
Rethinking School Health Services
Health is an important foundation for learning. Schools have always been important centers for providing health services to students, often in the realm of safety net and emergency care provided by school nurses or school-based health clinics. The growing complexity of the health challenges students face—from obesity and food insecurity to managing multiple chronic conditions, for example—requires a reexamination of the health-related services available within schools and how they are financed.
The timing of this reexamination coincides with the redesign of our nation’s health care delivery system, with an emphasis on population health and partnerships to assure comprehensive care that can include education.
To support student health, we must consider the ways that our health care delivery systems—both in the traditional health sector and in schools—can be redesigned to improve health outcomes for students. This means considering health promotion as well as services related to ongoing management of chronic illness.
Schools can play an important role in supporting the delivery of these key services and in meeting the nation’s health goals, especially in light of the increased focus on community care, disease prevention and health promotion set by the Affordable Care Act.
New financing arrangements such as accountable care organizations push the health system to think about partnerships with those who can offer comprehensive health services as well as address the social determinants of health, such as academic achievement. As the U.S. health system goes through these major changes, we face both a need and a tremendous opportunity to redefine the partnership between health and education.
For example, in Michigan, the non-profit hospital Spectrum Health Systems dedicates a portion of its annual community benefit resources toward school health. The money from Spectrum Health Systems pays half of the costs of employing school nurses in 11 schools and running four school-based health centers. The schools pay for the other half of the costs.
In Delaware, the health system Nemours has developed NemoursLink, which provides school nurses secure electronic access to select portions of their patients’ medical records. School nurses who work in Delaware Public Schools can use NemoursLink to access a student’s plan of care and see information about every visit a student makes to Nemours Children’s Hospital or to a Nemours physician’s office. With access to this information, school nurses can better manage care for students with chronic disease or complex care needs. Read more on HSC's blog.
To develop and build support for this type of system-level transformation, HSC and Trust for America’s Health have engaged experts, policymakers, academics and on-the-ground practitioners across the country.
National Collaborative for Education and Health
Based on the work and recommendations of the Working Group on Education and Health (read more about this group below), Healthy Schools Campaign and Trust for America’s Health launched the National Collaborative on Education and Health in February 2014.
The Collaborative brings together advocates, policymakers, school stakeholders and funders to work toward more fully integrating education and health. This means building schools’ capacity to address the needs that exist today and the needs we can’t yet anticipate. It also means building the health sector’s capacity to engage the community, including schools, in promoting health. The Collaborative is overseen by a steering committee of more than 20 health and education leaders.
The purpose of the Collaborative is to identify opportunities for the health and education sectors, individually and together with others, to ensure that all children have the opportunity to be healthy and academically successful, allowing them to reach their full potential as productive members of our communities and our nation. Find updates about the Collaborative’s work on HSC’s blog.
Special thanks to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Kaiser Permanente for their generous support of the National Collaborative for Education and Health.
Working Group on Health and Education
"Health does not occur in the doctor’s office and hospitals only. Health also occurs where we live, where we learn, where we work, where we play, and where we pray." With these words, former Surgeon General Regina Benjamin began her charge to the Working Group on Health and Education.
She convened this working group of the National Prevention Council’s Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health in 2013 at the encouragement of Healthy Schools Campaign and Trust for America's Health to help catalyze a more integrated approach to education and health for our nation’s children so they can achieve their full potential. She charged the working group with exploring the full potential of a multi- sector, public-private partnership in assuring that schools create the conditions of student health and wellness.
The Working Group was created with the understanding that all sectors—public and private, national, state and local—have a role to play in this integration. As such, it comprised a broad range of governmental and non-governmental representatives concerned with health and education. Healthy Schools Campaign President and CEO Rochelle Davis co-chaired this group with Jeff Levi, chair of the Prevention Advisory Group and executive director of the Trust for America's Health.
The Working Group’s primary task was to develop recommendations for a multi-sector, public-private partnership to move the country towards a more integrated approach to health and education. At the completion of its work, the Working Group recommended the formation of the National Collaborative for Education and Health. Read more about the working group’s recommendations and the issues it brought forward on HSC’s blog.
Download the Working Group’s proposed framework for the Collaborative and a full list of Working Group members.
Special thanks to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for their generous support of the Working Group on Health and Education.
National Policy Recommendations
Healthy Schools Campaign and Trust for America’s Health brought together advocates, leaders and policy makers from the health and education sectors for three convenings to discuss the issues at the heart of Health in Mind. These discussions informed a set of policy recommendations for the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services focused on specific, practical changes to support education through wellness.
Feedback from these organizations and individuals helped ensure that Health in Mind is not just theoretical, but includes practical, feasible steps that our nation’s leaders can take to help our education and health systems work collaboratively. For each set of recommendations, we included a case study of on-the-ground leaders putting these ideas in practice.
These recommendations are at the heart of the Health in Mind report, which we released in May 2012 with an event at the National Press Club. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius voiced their support for Health in Mind at this event, as did Gail Christopher, Vice President of Program Strategy for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation; Dennis Van Roekel, President of the National Education Association; and Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers.
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 the full Vision Statement below. Add your organization to the list of Supporting Organizations.