What if your children attended a school that recognized the importance of instilling healthy behaviors in your children at a young age? Good news, now through the Healthy Schools Program, more children in Northeast Colorado are becoming more aware, educated, and encouraged to partake in healthy behaviors than ever before. This regional coalition began two years ago, under Ann Clouse, when the need for reducing chronic diseases in children continued to climb at an alarming rate. This program supports schools around the region by not only offering monetary contributions but also by creating a crucial communication channel and support system between schools, all in hopes of giving schools the necessary resources to combat various health issues.
The Importance of Starting Children Young
There is no better time to instill healthy behaviors in an individual than at a young age. Because children are still developing, they are extremely impressionable. It is crucial to begin instilling habits that they can carry into their future lifestyles. Allowing children to develop skills, learn the importance, and gain daily exposure to making healthy choices will set children up to engage in healthy lifestyle choices throughout their future.
All about the Program
The NCHD provides a $3,000 grant to each participating school. However, the support that the department and program offers extends far beyond simple monetary contributions. Last year, the first year of the program, the focus primarily consisted of establishing relationships between the NCHD and the schools, discussing ideas, and the program planning phase. This year, NCHD continued to provide even more resources and experiences for the program partners. Ann brought in extremely well known, credible presenters such as Chef Ann, Juice +, and the 100 Mile Club to spark ideas. Schools also began choosing which programs they thought would be the most influential and necessary within their school.
Every school is different, thus every school encounters different barriers in creating a healthy environment for their students. One attribute of this program that makes it such a success is the broad range of resources and flexibility that it offers each individual school. Because the program is designed in such a flexible manner, schools are able to assess the needs within their school and choose a specialized focus and program plan for a strategy to combat that need. The strategies can take place in any aspect of the health and wellness scope that the school feels necessary. Whether that be providing healthy food and beverage options, focusing on increasing physical activity, or even establishing a worksite wellness plan for the staff. Lisa Trautwein, a leader in Wiggin’s partnership, agreed that the flexibility the program offered contributed to a plethora of ways this program has assisted schools by stating, “The criteria for this program is not rigid which allows for flexibility, funding support, ideas, and easy access.”
After speaking to Trautwein along with Reesa Larsen, a close working partner located in Brush, it was clear that because of this program, communication channels and relationships between schools have been created. Both commented that working as a group has been extremely beneficial and appreciated. It allows for a space where ideas and support flow throughout each district, making them come together for the benefit of their students.
Several schools, with the help of the NCHD and their supportive administrations, were set to implement their great programs this spring. At the Wiggins Elementary School, multiple water bottle fill stations were installed to target hydration in their students, as well as using 5th graders to carry out educational efforts. Brush chose to set their focus on nutritional efforts, by bringing in a smoothie bike and encouraging healthy treats for holiday parties. Other schools, planned to implement a variety of different ideas such as grab and go bags, action-based learning, and community workouts. However, due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, schools chose to put a temporary halt and adjusted accordingly on the preestablished plans. Clouse praised the school’s reactions and adaptations when faced with this unexpected challenge. Although this grant program is a two-year program, multiple partners are planning to resume implementation in the fall. Both Trautwein and Larsen foresee long-term implementation and influence on their student and staff health.
Although the Healthy Schools program is a new program, it has already proven to influence the health of students and schools in such a short time. For a lot of these schools, this program has offered partners inspiration, access, resources, support, and awareness that they have never received before. Together the NCHD and regional schools are capable of influencing the health of countless children and combating preventable health issues, giving children a chance at a healthier future than ever before.