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Partnering for Health in Newark’s Schools

October 31, 2013 | Community News, Community News and Media, Newark

kids on swingWith NJPHK-Newark acting as convener, the Newark Public Schools and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation are forging a partnership to transform Newark’s schools into healthier places.

The first teacher’s workshop on October 15 was an opportunity for representatives from three pilot schools to hear about the Alliance’s Healthy Schools Program and discuss how it can help create a healthier school environment. The Alliance provides tools and resources to aid schools in four areas: create a wellness council, initiate wellness programs for school staff, offer healthier foods, and increase opportunities for physical activity.

The Alliance will work with the school representatives, comprising school nurses, physical education teachers and other school staff, to identify the areas of school health in need of improvement and formulate and implement a plan for action. The seven content areas that address school health improvement are policy and systems, school meals, competitive food and beverages, health education, employee wellness, physical education and student wellness. The three pilot schools are Central High School, Luis Munoz Marin Elementary School and Oliver Street Elementary School.

“The Alliance has been trying to engage Newark public school’s for two years. This is first year we have approval to actually convene and begin work,” says Courtney Price, NJPHK-Newark project manager. NJPHK-Newark was instrumental in brokering the relationship between the Alliance and the schools. “We worked closely with Dr. Marguerite Leuze, director of Health Services from Newark Public Schools to build a relationship with the schools. She helped us talk to the right people.”

Throughout the state, the Alliance’s Healthy School Program has a presence in 669 schools, touching 407,645 students. Sixteen of the schools are receiving national recognition for their success in engaging families in physical activities, starting staff walking clubs, providing healthy choices in vending machines, and using taste tests to introduce students to a variety of produce.

Price hopes “the schools will be able to take advantage of the best practices the Alliance lays out for creating healthier environments.”

The Healthy Schools Program recommends that schools use six steps for building a healthier school environment:

  1. Convene a school wellness council
  2. Use the Healthy Schools Program inventory to assess the school’s current efforts
  3. Develop an action plan based on what’s important and achievable in the school community
  4. Identify resources that can facilitate implementation of the action plan
  5. Take action
  6. Celebrate successes and monitor progress
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