Blog Posts Tagged: comprehensive school health

Comprehensive School Health in Action

We talk about Comprehensive School Health (CSH) quite a lot here at DASH. It is mentioned in our resources, our blog posts, and pretty much everywhere else. Sure, you understand that CSH is a holistic, whole school approach to health, but what does it really look like?

Comprehensive school health encompasses the whole school environment with four inter-related pillars; relationships and environments, teaching and learning, community partnerships, and our school policies. When these pillars are addressed together, students are supported to realize their full potential as learners and healthy members of society.

It may a bit difficult to envision all these pillars coming together, so let’s take a look at a real life example of CSH. The Merced City School District in California has been using a CSH approach to address healthy eating with their Health and Wellness Committee.

Relationships and Environments:
Merced has noticed that student-student relationships play a big role in healthy eating. Students are more willing to try new foods if their peers are telling them about it or also trying it. Staff members also have an influence on the healthy eating habits of students and need to be positive role models if they want to see change. Healthy snacks are being provided for staff in Merced to set a good example, with the added benefit of change in the staff members’ eating habits as well. The physical environment plays a role as well; healthy cafeteria options and adding a school garden are just some examples of setting the right environment for healthy eating.

Teaching and Learning:
This pillar is not just about teachers and students, but about the many learning opportunities available both inside and outside of school. The Health and Wellness Committee are trying to engage students in eating healthy foods by creating a Culinary Council to taste-test healthy foods that could be incorporated into their schools’ cafeterias. This gives students opportunities to learn about new foods and have a voice in what they want. Parents are also learning about healthy eating, both through their children and through health presentations put on by the Health and Wellness Committee.

Community Partnerships:
Working with your community is a great way to involve everyone. The Health and Wellness Committee has built strong relationships with local farmers to provide vegetables and fruits to schools, even past the growing season. They also have partnerships with health clubs in the area for reduced membership fees for staff.

Our School Policies:
Policies are needed to help shape a caring and safe school environment and promote student health and well being. The Merced School District has adopted a health and wellness policy in their schools in order to do so.

What the Merced School District did in each one of these pillars is great, but together they make a lasting impact on students.

To learn more about Merced’s healthy eating strategy, click here.
To read more stories about CSH in action, visit the Healthy Schools BC Stories Map.

Healthy Food Zones

by Alicia Yip

I recently read an article about a “Healthy Food Zone” ordinance possibly being put in place in Austin, Texas for 2016. Fast food restaurants and other retailers of unhealthy food options would be banned from opening in areas surrounding Austin schools, parks, recreation centres, libraries, and child care centres in an effort to fight childhood obesity. Although probably very difficult to put in place, I found this to be a very interesting idea. How would this impact students and schools? Would it be beneficial? Should we be thinking about implementing a similar plan here in Canada?

The Guidelines for Food and Beverage Sales in BC Schools was implemented a year or two into my time in high school. I was able to see the change first hand and experience its impact on the school and students. Ketchup chips were replaced with apple chips and those big chewy chocolate cookies were gone from vending machines forever. It didn’t take long before students started to flock to the nearby Safeway, A&W, and gas station convenience store during their lunch hour. I was quite upset about the missing cookies, but of course now I see it differently.

Although I think the “Healthy School Zone” concept is a good idea, I don’t think that just removing the so-called culprits will solve the problem. Students have found a way around it before and they will most likely find a way around it again. A healthy school isn’t just about a healthy classroom; a healthy school is defined by the whole school environment. The Comprehensive School Health framework defines this whole school approach with four inter-related pillars; relationships and environments, teaching and learning, community partnerships, and our school policies. When actions are taken across all four pillars, there is a greater impact on the health of students, the school, and the community.

I believe that for this “Healthy School Zone” concept to work, all four pillars will need to be looked at. Simply just taking away the options will most likely have a negative impact. We all have the tendency to want what we can’t have right? Students, staff, and parents should fully understand why the change is necessary, why healthy eating is important, and what benefits are associated with it. They should also be able to take part in the discussion, share their opinions on the subject matter, and ask questions. Perhaps a school policy should be put in place with regards to healthy eating. Also, possible partnerships could be made with restaurants and retailers to sell healthier food options. Students should be given the opportunity to learn about the health benefits of healthy eating so that they can make informed food choices themselves, better educated students are healthier and healthier students learn better.  If everyone is involved in the process, a change is more readily accepted.

What do you think about this idea?

True North Strong and Free – Spreading Healthy Schools knowledge and support in all parts of the province!

by Daniel Naiman

After a beautiful Canada Day weekend, my work day began on Tuesday July 2nd by boarding a plane to the northernmost destination I have ever traveled to: Dawson Creek BC (And no, this is not where the TV show Dawson’s Creek took place if that’s what you are thinking!). The purpose of this trip was to support a joint learning session between the South Peace School District (SD#59) and members of the Northern Health regional health authority as part of a regional consultation process (a component of the Healthy Schools BC initiative which aims to bring school districts and health authorities together to determine how they can best work together to jointly support student well being).

The joint learning session was a huge success. We opened the day by teaching the group (a total of about 45 administrators and heath authority staff) about the Comprehensive School Health Approach, with some examples and activities to solidify everyone’s knowledge on this whole-school approach. Everyone then broke-off into small groups to undertake an appreciative inquiry to look at what healthy schools activities were currently going on in their region.

For the second half of the day, DASH shared some of the tools, resources, and supports that are available to educators and health partners, such as the Healthy Schools BC Portal. One of our Healthy Schools Network leaders, Lynn Brown, then provided a real life example by presenting on her work creating a “Community of Learners” with her students, and how both school and health authority staff could benefit by using this same process. The day ended with small groups coming together again deciding next steps on how they could best move forward together.

Getting to attend these types of meetings is one of the great perks of being part of the DASH team. Seeing partners from different sectors (health and education in this case) come together for the sole purpose of creating healthy learners and healthy learning environments is an incredible process to be a part of. Also, I get to see such interesting and beautiful parts of this incredible province, like the Mile 0 marker for the Alaskan Highway which we went to go see while in Dawson Creek. Most importantly, I get to meet such special people from across the province and hear about the amazing work they are doing to create a healthy, educated, and engaged population of students across British Columbia.

Weighing in about Healthy Weight – it’s not about what you can lose, it’s about what you can gain!

by Alex Inman

I had the great opportunity to attend the Provincial Health Services Authority’s Healthy Weights Forum on June 21st when BC healthcare professionals discussed healthy weights and weight bias/stigma. This became particularly relevant as both Canadian and American media have been reporting heavily about two news articles related to weight. First was the recent discovery of a possible link between school healthy eating programs and eating disorders found by Dr. Leora Pinhas in Toronto, ON (CBC article here). The second news-making announcement was the recent classification of obesity as a disease by the American Medical Association (CBC article here).

Even though healthcare professionals have known for years that weight (i.e. the Body Mass Index or BMI) is not the best indicator of health, our society still equates being thin with being healthy. However, it is just as possible for an overweight individual to be healthier than a normal weight individual, as categorized by the BMI. In actuality, someone’s perceived weight tells us very little about their overall physical, mental, and emotional health. These aspects of health cannot be quantified into a number or onto a scale; they are achieved by a holistic approach to health both at home, at work/school, and in healthcare. Therefore, in my opinion, obesity is not a disease because having a BMI over 30 does not guarantee you are ill. In fact, it doesn’t really mean much at all.

Working at DASH has allowed me to learn more about the Comprehensive School Health (CSH) approach, which is a holistic way of looking at healthy schools. Instead of trying to make healthy changes in schools only by educating children, CSH encourages us to look at other aspects that may be affecting the health of the school community. For example, besides the teaching and learning aspect we need to also consider: the social and physical environment, school policies, and the potential for partnerships and services. Through the healthy eating lens, CSH would inquire how we can encourage students to eat healthier through nutrition education, ensuring the school environment and policy promotes healthy eating behaviours, and looking to the community and surrounding organizations for support. By looking at changing eating behaviours of students through CSH, we’re approaching the issue in a holistic way. The pressure, then, is not entirely on students to ‘be the best’ at eating healthy or ‘getting an A in nutrition’ which may trigger disordered eating in a select few students. With CSH, the whole school community is making the shift to living a healthier lifestyle.

Both of these issues are obviously very complicated and inextricably linked to many aspects of our society and other topics in nutrition, weight, and healthy lifestyles. However, we all need to keep in mind that your weight does not define your worth. Healthy weights, in conclusion, should not be about what you can lose, but what you can gain.

We here at DASH would love to hear about what you think about these stories. Did you already know about the shift in BC from ‘battling obesity’ to ‘promoting healthy weights’? How do you think all of us can continue to encourage health (physically and mentally) to British Columbian students? How do you maintain a healthy lifestyle? Leave a comment below!