A smiling, little girl running.

The HSW Program works to improve student health and academic achievement by improving opportunities for healthy eating, physical activity, and chronic disease management. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Washington’s priority school districts had planned to complete the School  Health Index (SHI) and WellSAT 3.0 to assess school environment and policies that affect student health, such as those pertaining to fruit and vegetable consumption and physical activity. However, in-person meetings and trainings transitioned into virtual formats.

In May and June 2020, the HSW Program developed a four-step process to complete the assessments virtually to address the issues identified in the Healthy Youth Survey:

  1. Identified and assembled a team of content experts to be responsible for completing the
  2. Used a skilled group facilitator to navigate each SHI team through SHI modules to enable schools to identify strengths and weaknesses of health and safety policies and programs.
  3. Convened a 2-hour professional development (PD) session to review SHI
  4. Completed the WellSAT 3.0 in another 2-hour PD session.

The COVID-19 pandemic limited the ability of the HSW Program and Washington’s priority school districts to take measureable actions based on these assessments. However, the school districts that participated in the four-step process trainings submitted health improvement action plans describing the policies and procedures they intended to address once COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.

Among other actions, districts intend to:  Incorporate physical  activity breaks in the  classroom and provide  teachers with resources to  take this action.  Improve  marketing of  school meals  and grab-and-go  bags.  Provide and  promote  locally grown  foods to students.  Provide  enough time  for all students  to eat breakfast and  lunch.  Provide recommendations to all schools, parents, and the community on foods  offered to students for parties and rewards, in school stores, and a la carte items.  Hire a nurse’s aide for the elementary  school to manage injuries, health  concerns, and chronic health conditions.  Improve the social and emotional climate by creating a professional development  plan for staff that addresses the following:  How discussions with students during discipline can lead to  healthier student behavior.  How to engage students to ensure they feel heard and valued.  How to teach coping skills during interactions and  conversations with students.  How to use student surveys to understand student social and emotional needs.