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Lee County in need of comprehensive health education policy

February 26, 2014
By MARY FISCHER , Lehigh Acres Citizen

Are Lee County students fit, healthy and ready to learn? We need to adopt a comprehensive health education policy in Lee County!

Why is school health important? Research shows that when school districts and schools have effective policies and practices that support the health of their students and staff:

- Student and staff absenteeism decreases

- Student concentration improves

- Student behavior problems are reduced

- Children and adolescents establish life-long health-promoting behaviors

Health education builds students' knowledge, skills and positive attitudes about health. Health education teaches about physical, mental, emotional and social health. It motivates students to improve and maintain their health, prevent disease and reduce risky behaviors.

Health education curricula and instruction help students learn skills they will use to make healthy choices throughout their lifetime. Effective curricula result in positive changes in behavior that lower student risks around:

- Alcohol, tobacco and other drugs

- Injury prevention

- Mental and emotional health

- Nutrition

- Physical activity

- Prevention of diseases

- Sexuality and family life

Health education promotes learning in other subjects! One study showed that reading and math scores of third- and fourth-grade students who received comprehensive health education were significantly higher than those who did not.

In general, healthy students learn better. Numerous studies have shown that healthier students tend to do better in school. They have higher attendance, have better grades and perform better on tests.

Studies have shown the strong link between traditional literacy and health literacy; Florida Blue has long believed that supporting early education and literacy is an important investment in children's school success and their long-term health.

The Office of Healthy Schools Vision is "Florida's Children: Healthy, Fit, and Ready to Learn."

The Office of Healthy Schools fully embraces the eight-component Coordinated School Health (CSH) model.

- Lessons that instill healthy behaviors: Comprehensive Health Education

- Exercise for strong and flexible bodies: Physical Education

- Appealing and healthy food choices: Nutrition Services

- Reduction of illness and injury: Health Services

- Nurturing, safe, and supportive environment: Healthy School Environment

- Integration of mind, emotion and body: Counseling, Psychology and Social Services

- Network of health conscious staff modeling wellness for students: Health Promotion for Staff

- Good family and community relations

We have been awarded the Healthy Schools Silver level for our Health Services and Staff Wellness program. Let's include the remaining six components by adopting a comprehensive model, and go for the gold

"A School Health Advisory Committee (SHAC) is an advisory group composed of school, health, and community representatives who act collectively to advise the school district about aspects of a Coordinated School Health approach."

SHACs are required by Florida statute to contain membership from the eight component areas of Coordinated School Health, provide advocacy for school health and identify needs and opportunities to maximize community resources.

The Lee County School Health Advisory Committee, along with the District Advisory and Lee County Health Department, have made presentations to the board and submitted several recommendations in writing advocating for a Lee County Schools Comprehensive Health Education Policy K-12.

Prevention through education is the key to a healthy future! Please join in the movement to advocate for our Lee County students.

Mary Fischer is the District 1 Lee County School Board Member.



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