Schools sharing the message about healthy habits
Schools across the country are getting healthier. A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), found that more schools have banned junk food sales, prohibit tobacco use on campus and mandate physical education and recess for elementary students.
The 2012 School Health Policies and Practices Study is the largest and most comprehensive survey to assess school health policies. While the report generally found favorable trends in policies promoting physical health, policies supporting mental and social health were inconsistent, researchers said.
Years of efforts to phase out junk food like candy and chips seem to have paid off. The percentage of school districts that prohibit such food in vending machines increased from 29.8 percent in 2006 to 43.4 percent in 2012, according to the study.
Also, slightly more than half of school districts, up from about 35 percent in 2000, made information available to families on the nutrition and caloric content of foods available to students. And the percentage of school districts that allowed soft drink companies to advertise on school grounds decreased from 46.6 percent in 2006 to 33.5 percent in 2012.
Another sign of progress: About 68 percent of U.S. school districts had policies in 2012 that prohibited all tobacco use during any school-related activity, compared to 46.7 percent in 2000.
In addition, the percentage of school districts that required elementary schools to teach physical education increased from 82.6 percent in 2000 to 93.6 percent in 2012. The study also found that the number of districts collaborating with local hospitals, YMCAs, Boys & Girls Clubs or local parks and recreation departments went up.
Dr. Bruce Hyman, internal medicine physician at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill., and president of a nearby elementary school district board, believes that schools can play a critical role in teaching healthy behaviors.
“As they teach math, science and reading, they can also teach the importance of healthy behavior – whether overtly or by example,” he says.
“We know that students who eat too much and exercise too little are at risk for a lifetime of poor health,” Hyman says. “It’s much easier to prevent unhealthy behaviors in children than reversing bad habits during adulthood.”
This is good news for students and parents, said Dr. Tom Frieden, director at the CDC, in a news release. “More students have access to healthy food, better physical fitness activities through initiatives such as ‘Let’s Move,’ and campuses that are completely tobacco free.”
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