Healthy Schools Coalition Sees Positive Results: Rhode Island Promotes Nutrition, Physical Activity

Article excerpt

Action for Healthy Kids(TM)

The rate of childhood obesity and overweight children in America has skyrocketed in the last two decades. In 2002, The Journal of the American Medical Association stated that in the past 20 years the number of overweight children had doubled, and the number of overweight adolescents had tripled. These alarming statistics reflect a more sedentary lifestyle of today's children and the development of poor eating habits.

The Rhode Island Healthy Schools Coalition (RIHSC) was formed in 2002 to address childhood obesity and to build a coordinated effort to develop solutions. RIHSC operates under the national initiative, Action For Healthy Kids (AFHK). AFHK (http://actionforhealthykids.org) is dedicated to improving children's nutrition and physical activity in schools by working collaboratively with diverse stakeholders in advocating, promoting, and implementing national and state initiatives.

RIHSC includes more than 60 organizations representing state agencies, health, nutrition, and physical activity professionals, plus schools, healthcare providers, professional educator associations, and business and community leaders. The Rhode Island Association of Family and Consumer Sciences has been an active member since 2002.

The first action of RIHSC was to adopt two 5-year goals as the "mission" of the organization. The goals serve to keep all members focused in their individual work, activities with other RIHSC members, and the Coalition's work with AFHK:

1. By October 2007, all schools in RI will provide all children pre-K-12 with daily opportunities to engage in physical activity in addition to quality education that helps develop the knowledge, attitudes, skills, behaviors, and confidence needed to be physically active for life.

2. By October 2007, all schools in RI will adopt policies ensuring that foods and beverages available on school campuses and at school events contribute toward eating patterns that are consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

The outcomes of member collaboration are bringing exciting and meaningful results. A series of regional educator workshops was organized to introduce RIHSC to teachers and school staff so they would be empowered to take action in their schools to improve student health and educational performance. To build district leadership support, three statewide breakfast conferences were held. School committee members, administrators, food service directors and community and parent leaders attended. Pat Cooper, PhD, superintendent of McCombs Schools in Mississippi, provided the inspiration for change during two of those breakfasts. …