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School Health Guidelines

Schools play a critical role in improving the dietary and physical activity behaviors of children and adolescents. Schools can create environments supportive of students’ efforts to eat healthy and be active by implementing policies and practices that support healthy eating and regular physical activity and by providing opportunities for students to learn about and practice these behaviors.

The health of students is linked to their academic success. Both physical activity and healthy eating may help improve academic achievement.4–7

Healthy eating and regular physical activity play a powerful role in preventing obesity and chronic diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and stroke — the three leading causes of death among adults aged 18 years or older.8–12

CDC synthesized research and best practices related to promoting healthy eating and physical activity in schools, culminating in nine guidelines. These guidelines were informed by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans,1 the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans,2 and the Healthy People 2020 objectives related to healthy eating and physical activity among children, adolescents, and schools.3 The guidelines serve as the foundation for developing, implementing, and evaluating school-based healthy eating and physical activity policies and practices for students.

Each of the nine guidelines is accompanied by a set of implementation strategies developed to help schools work towards achieving each guideline. Although the ultimate goal is to implement all nine guidelines included in this document, not every strategy will be appropriate for every school, and some schools, due to resource limitations, might need to implement the guidelines incrementally.

Related Guidelines

cover of Tips for Teachers PDF Tips for Teachers [PDF - 3.57 MB]
Tips and resources for teachers to promote healthy eating and physical activity in the classroom

2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans 
Science-based recommendations to help persons aged 2 years or older implement good dietary habits that can promote health and reduce risk for major chronic diseases

2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans
Science-based recommendations to help persons aged 6 years or older improve their health through physical activity

Healthy People 2020 Topics and Objectives
Science-based, 10-year objectives for improving the health of Americans