Schools in eight districts are using new policies to improve the health practices of nearly 9,000 students.
The Florida Department of Health (FDOH) identified eight high-need school districts in terms of health status, risk behaviors, and district capacity. The process incorporated findings from the Florida Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting needs assessment related to the social determinants of health, such as poverty level and education.
After the districts were selected, the “Healthy Districts/Schools Project” was launched with funding and guidance from the districts’ county health departments. The project focuses on six areas that span the life course and uses a key strategy to “strengthen schools as the heart of health.” The eight participating school districts are encouraged to meet three goals: (1) achieve the “Healthy School District” award via the Florida Healthy School District Self-Assessment Tool designed to rate district infrastructure, policies, programs, and practices every two years; (2) encourage all schools to participate in Healthier US School Challenge (HUSSC): Smarter LunchroomsExternal; and (3) establish a Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program (CSPAP).
District personnel, who reach nearly 9,000 students, have received professional development and technical assistance from FDOH and other partners on strategies to improve health-related policies and practices for students. As a result, several school districts have changed their policies to increase recess or increase physical activity time. For example, one of the participating districts included 15 minutes of recess time in addition to the regular physical education requirement in its School Improvement Plan.