For the past five years, American University has worked with the Kaiser Foundation of the Mid-Atlantic States to assess the success of the 2010 Healthy Schools Act (HSA) in Washington, DC. The District Council enacted the HSA to help make schools healthier environments in which to learn and work.
It’s essential to ensure students’ well-being during the school day. The HSA supports that schools are just as responsible for children’s nutrition and health as they are for success in reading, math, and other traditional subjects.
To measure the impact of the HSA in its initial five-year period, campus researchers in the Health Promotion Management Program conducted a longitudinal analysis of six areas listed below. Here are some of the most encouraging success stories from the report.
The percentage of schools that indicated their meals met or exceeded HSA requirements rose from 90 percent in 2010-11 to 100 percent in 2014-15.
School Gardens & Farm to School
The HSA initiated funding for school gardens, which boosted the prevalence of such gardens by about five percent in five years. Additionally, reporting requirements regarding processed foods helped the region attain an intriguing statistic: 95 percent of schools reported serving locally grown and/or locally processed and unprocessed foods during meal times.
Local Wellness Policy
Wide-ranging expansion of federal goals for local wellness policies fostered stronger partnerships between parents, administrators, and other involved parties. Anecdotal evidence shows unique strides ranging from new on-campus green spaces to fun family exercise nights.
Given their role as the link between family, community, school personnel, and healthcare providers, school nurses were identified as a key priority in the HSA. As a result, the percentage of schools with either a part-time or full-time nurse rose in both public schools and public charter schools.
Physical activity is critical to optimizing cognitive function during the school day, which is why the HSA made consistent physical education time a priority. In five years, the average minutes of physical education per week for middle-schoolers rose by more than 30 minutes.
The success of the Healthy Schools Act has united local leaders and parents in their support of continued focus and effort toward better health and wellness for children. Much work lies ahead, yet clear strides thus far have shown that the HAS is on the right track for long-term impact.
Interested in more information on the HSA report results?
- The Washington Post delves into the link between physical education and math test scores.
- Another story takes an honest look at what’s working—increased prevalence of school nurses and on-site gardens, for instance— and what should improve, such as the average time students spend in PE.
For more data about how DC schools are improving opportunities for healthy lifestyles among students, download the full Five-Year Report on the Healthy School Act.