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Close Achievement Gap by Addressing School Health

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Health in Mind, a new report from Healthy Schools Campaign (HSC) and Trust for America’s Health (TFAH), details immediate solutions that can help close the achievement gap and create a healthy future for all children.

American children are struggling academically and the nation faces a growing achievement gap that is increasingly tied to health disparities—today’s children could become the first generation to live shorter and less healthy lives than their parents, notes the report.

Health in Mind offers a strong framework for addressing the nation’s most urgent health and education challenges by outlining strategies within the current regulatory and budget framework of the Department of Education and Department of Health and Human Services that the administration can utilize to better the conditions for health and learning in schools. The report also examines the research connecting health disparities with educational outcomes and presents case studies of innovative on-the-ground practices across the nation.

“We’ve never met a parent, teacher or school leader who didn’t recognize that healthy students are better prepared to learn,” said Rochelle Davis, President and CEO of HSC, a national advocacy organization that focuses much of its work on improving the food and fitness environment in Chicago schools. “But the truth is that vast health disparities exist in our nation and far too many children attend school in environments that do not support their health. Unless we address these challenges, our efforts to close the achievement gap will be compromised. The consequences are enormous for children’s learning and for their lifetime health.”

Health in Mind presents research, policy analysis and immediate recommendations focused on:

- Preparing teachers and principals to promote student health and wellness;
- Engaging parents in school health;
- Incorporating health and wellness into school metrics, accountability and recognition programs;
- Building the Department of Education’s capacity to address student health and wellness; and
- Placing a school nurse in every school.

The report follows a May 2012 event at which HSC and TFAH, with the support of the nation’s largest education unions, presented a set of recommendations to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. At the event, both Sec. Duncan and Sec. Sebelius publicly expressed their support for the goals that would form the basis for Health in Mind.

In December 2012, 10 members of Congress signed on to a letter to Sec. Duncan and Sec. Sebelius expressing their support for the recommendations. More than 70 organizations representing the nation’s health and education advocates have signed on to the Health in Mind vision statement.

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