The Battle Creek (Michigan) Schools Healthy Lifestyles Program

Article excerpt

In the early 1980s, superintendents of four public school districts in the Greater Battle Creek (Mich.) Area were faced with reducing the quantity of school health services provided by the Calhoun County Health Department. The number of school nurses was reduced, and the function of the school nurse was changed from being a primary health provider to becoming a facilitator, educator, and director. At that time, Michigan was slipping into a deep recession. The recession translated into fewer dollars for state, county, and local health departments, and budgets of school district programs and services were reduced accordingly.

School superintendents of the four districts submitted a proposal for funding school nurses to the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. After reviewing the proposal, Foundation staff asked the superintendents to dream and to broaden their perspective regarding school health services, programs, and opportunities. The Foundation also encouraged the project to include the four private school systems in the Battle Creek area. The Foundation discussed with the educators 13 health risk factors as possible options for concentration. Superintendents selected four risk factors -- physical fitness, nutrition, substance abuse, and stress management -- for targets in the second grant proposal. Educators also were strongly interested in including two additional risk factors -- sexually transmitted diseases and family planning. However, superintendents reluctantly decided not to include these two risk factors because of their political sensitivity at the outset of the project. The more comprehensive health promotion and education project currently in place, which began in October of 1984, include these aspects.


Battle Creek's greatest fame is as the "Cereal City of the World." With a population of 110,000, the city supports several federal facilities and international Fortune 500 industries. It is also the location of four public and four private school districts.

Public schools were and are the primary locus for the health promotion and education initiatives in this project. The four public school districts are Battle Creek City Schools, Lakeview Schools, Harper Creek Schools, and Pennfield Schools. The private school districts are St. Philip/St. Joseph Catholic Schools, Battle Creek Academy, Battle Creek Christian School, and the Family Altar Christian School. More than 17,000 students attend the public and private K-12 schools.

Coordination of the proposed health promotion activities was a concern of the Educator's Task Force, community health providers, staff of the Kellogg Foundation, and community leaders. As a result, project developers made a conscious effort to include interested parties in the governance and operation of the project, including the Calhoun County Health Dept., Kellogg Community College, area hospitals, area nutritionists, Battle Creek Y-Center, parents, physicians, school personnel, superintendents, family and child services, child guidance, psychological consultants, United Way, W.K. Kellogg Company, South Central Substance Abuse Commission, Urban League, Washington Heights Ministries, and Battle Creek Police Dept.

A Healthy Lifestyles Taks Force, consisting of representatives from the community groups, was formed. Next, administrators and teachers were surveyed to determined the current scope and sequence of health education/promotion programs as well as activities they wanted provided in their schools. Survey respondents and members of the Task Force indicated that sequential direction and long-range objectives for effective health education were missing.

Figure 1 contains the outline of the commitment of the community organizations and schools to improve the well-being of young people. Members of these organizations provide the project with programming ideas, policy recommendations, and directions. …