Schools are pivotal in reducing childhood obesity. By providing students the opportunity to learn about and practice healthy lifestyles, schools can cultivate healthy eating and encourage physical activity behaviors in students.
To make this process easier, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers best practices to help schools develop, implement and evaluate school-based healthy eating and physical activity practices.
These nine guidelines were developed from a combination of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans and Healthy People 2020.
Guidelines to make your school healthier
- Use a coordinated approach to develop, implement and evaluate healthy eating and physical activity policies and practices. School officials, teachers, staff members, parents and students should work together to maximize healthy lifestyle opportunities.
- Establish school environments that support healthy eating and physical activity. From the playground to the classroom, the entire school environment should encourage healthy choices.
- Provide a quality school meal program and ensure students have only appealing, healthy food and beverage choices offered outside of the school meal program. Vending machines, concessions stands, school stores and after-school programs should all mimic the nutritional guidelines and offer balanced, healthy options.
- Implement a comprehensive physical activity program with quality physical education as the cornerstone. Children and teens should participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Physical education classes, recess and the encouragement of walking and bicycling to school can all be a part of this.
- Implement health education that provides students the knowledge, attitudes, skills and experiences needed for healthy eating and physical activity. Arming students with the knowledge they need in school prepares them to be healthy adults in the future.
- Provide students with health, mental health and social services to address healthy eating, physical activity and related chronic disease prevention. Resources should be readily available at schools – and for follow up – regarding the treatment of health conditions related to diet, physical activity and weight status.
- Partner with families and community members in the development and implementation of healthy eating and physical activity policies, practices and programs. Partnerships promote consistent messaging about healthy behaviors and available resources; they also motivate students to live healthy lives.
- Provide a school employee wellness program that includes healthy eating and physical activity services for all school staff members. Worksite wellness programs can improve staff productivity while decreasing absenteeism and employee health care costs.
- Employ qualified persons and provide professional development opportunities for school staff members and out-of-school-time programs. Offering regular professional development opportunities for staff helps them improve current skills and acquire new ones.
By adopting these nine guidelines, schools can educate students in more than just reading, writing and arithmetic. They can offer the tools and resources students need to live healthy, active lives and reduce childhood obesity.
Read the School Health Guidelines to Promote Healthy Eating and Physical Activity in their entirety here.