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Create a School Health Advisory Council

Schools should take action to promote a healthy environment for their students, faculty and staff. One way to do this is to create a school health advisory council to assess the school’s health status, make relevant policy recommendations and keep tabs on health-related issues. The council should include students, parents, teachers, administrators, other school staff and community representatives.

Assess the Current Health Status

The council can determine the school’s current health status by:

  • Assessing the school’s environment, as well as its physical education, physical activity and nutrition policies, by using the CDC’s School Health Index.
  • Conducting a “walkability assessment” of the area around a school to identify unsafe crossings, broken sidewalks or other environmental factors that deter students from walking to school. To help with this assessment, the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers a Walkability Checklist that you can access and use.

Create a Healthier Environment

Once the current strengths and weaknesses are identified, the council can help guide the process of creating a healthier environment and implementing healthy eating and physical activity policies. CDC’s guide, “Make a Difference at Your School: Key Strategies to Prevent Obesity,” can aid in this process.

Changes that the council may recommend include:

  • Making sure vending machines offer healthy options.
  • Ensuring that school policy does not allow physical activity to be withheld (e.g., withholding recess) or used as punishment (e.g., making students do pushups or run laps).
  • Encouraging parents to bring fruits or other non-food treats for celebrating birthdays.
  • Considering what is being sold in school fundraisers and choosing to partner with companies that provide non-food options, such as plants, candles or wrapping paper.
  • Working with families of students with special needs, chronic health conditions or disabilities to ensure that physical activities are part of their student’s learning plan during and after school.