Recently announced — the 2019 winners of America’s Healthiest Schools. Making the list were 355 schools from 23 states. Never heard of the list? The Alliance for a Healthier Generation (Healthier Generation), an organization dedicated to helping children form healthy habits that will stay with them throughout their lifetime, is making a concerted effort to ensure you’re both aware of the list and that your child’s school makes it among the award winners.
Healthier Generation has been working with schools and youth organizations for over 10 years to help achieve this goal. In an effort to involve schools, since they interact with 95% of the youth in the country, Healthier Generation began a Healthy Schools Program.
“The program empowers school and district leaders to create and sustain healthy schools where students – especially those in greatest need – can thrive,” Megan Walcek, Healthier Generation Marketing and Communications Manager, tells Parentology.
In an effort to recognize those schools that are keeping healthy living a top priority, Healthier Generation began an annual list of “America’s Healthiest Schools.” What began in 2007 with 25 schools recognized has now grown to a sustained group of over 300 schools.
In order to make the list, schools must meet the criteria outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Healthy Schools Program. They are then reviewed by a team of school health experts and given a bronze, silver or gold award based on their level of excellence.
Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program is one of the nation’s largest school-based childhood obesity prevention and health promotion programs. The program is focused not only on physical health, but the health of the whole child including social and emotional health, plus sleep.
As the program has grown, so has its reach. “Since 2005, Healthier Generation has supported more than 44,000 schools serving over 26 million children nationwide in creating healthier learning environments for students and staff,” Walcek says.
The program has been proven to make a difference in the lives and health of its participants. “In a 2015 article published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s journal, Preventing Chronic Disease,” Walcek says, “researchers found meaningful participation in Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program was linked to reductions in the prevalence of overweight and obesity among students in high-need schools.”
These high-need schools are often in lower socioeconomic areas where parents are often struggling to put food on the table. Many of these students had no exposure to nutritional education, healthy eating and lifestyle habits before Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools program, so the impact has been great.
“These students are more likely to experience food insecurity, experience academic achievement gaps, and have fewer opportunities to be physically active—putting them at greater risk for serious, long-term health issues,” Walcek says.
Healthier Generation honors the achievements of these schools through its annual list, but Walcek notes the accomplishment really lies with those on the front lines.
“These schools are proof of the hard work so many educators, district administrators, school staff, and parents are doing to best position kids for success in school and in life.”