President Bill Clinton, founder of the William J. Clinton Foundation, today joined Clyde Yancy, M.D., president of the American Heart Association and Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), at the Fourth Annual Healthy Schools Program Forum in New York to honor 114 schools from across the nation that are transforming into healthier places for students to learn and staff to work.
“As kids head back to school this fall, it is important to remember that healthy students are more likely to attend class, concentrate on their schoolwork, and perform better academically,” President Clinton said. “I am pleased to recognize 114 outstanding schools that have succeeded in building healthy learning environments for students and staff. To date, the Alliance’s Healthy Schools Program has helped give more than three million kids increased opportunities for physical activity and healthy eating, and we look forward to reaching even more in the year ahead.”
Nearly one in three children and adolescents in the United States is obese or overweight. In response to the epidemic, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation—a joint partnership of the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation—established the Healthy Schools Program in 2006 to help schools develop and implement policies and practices to promote healthy eating and increase physical activity. The Healthy Schools Program is supported by funding from RWJF, which has committed $28 million to the program.
“I don’t think there’s a school in the nation that doesn’t want to be a healthy school,” said Lavizzo-Mourey. “But schools face budget challenges and competing priorities, and they sometimes don’t know where or how to start. The Healthy Schools Program can help any school in the nation—even those with the fewest resources—take positive steps toward becoming healthier places for students and staff.”
The Healthy Schools Program takes a comprehensive approach to helping schools create healthier environments by working with them to improve access to healthier foods; increase physical activity opportunities before, during and after school; enhance nutrition education; and establish school employee wellness programs. Support is tailored so that every school creates its own local approach that matches the specific needs of its community.
“There is no single solution to the complex and compelling problem of the childhood obesity epidemic, which is why this school-based initiative that recognizes achievements around broader, school-wide change is such a great initiative,” said Clyde W. Yancy, M.D., medical director for Baylor Heart and Vascular Institute at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas. “This program encourages innovation and ingenuity. The schools being recognized today have earned the right to be honored for making systemic changes that will make tomorrow’s generation healthier.”
The program provides free support to more than 5,000 schools in all 50 states as they work to create healthy school environments that promote physical activity and healthy eating for more than three million students. The following are just a few examples of the changes that are being made among the 114 schools being recognized for their healthy achievements today:
- Cesár Chavez Middle School in Lynwood, Calif., transformed the food offerings in the school so that all food items offered now derive 30 percent or less of their calories from fat, and 100 percent of foods are trans-fat free. Fresh fruits are now served regularly, and a salad bar has been installed in the school to improve access to fresh vegetables.
- West New York Public School #5, an elementary school in West New York, N.J., now offers students the opportunity to participate in a morning wellness program for one hour before school, three days a week. There they learn how to read nutrition labels, the core components of fitness, and the correlation between healthy food choices, physical activity and academic achievement.
- Because North Fort Myers High School in Fort Myers, Fla., was confronted with a student body that all too often arrived in the morning without a healthy a breakfast, they launched a mobile breakfast program. The school cafeteria now delivers nutritious a la carte breakfast options directly to the students as they arrive.
Schools participating in the Healthy Schools Program are eligible to earn bronze, silver, gold or platinum awards based on their range of healthy eating and physical activity programs and policies. The rigorous program criteria—known as the Healthy Schools Program Best Practice Framework—were developed in consultation with a panel of experts, including representatives from the American Heart Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, RWJF and others. The 114 schools being recognized today have met these stringent standards and have positively impacted healthy eating and physical activity behaviors among students and staff.
“That’s the thing—we keep score. We independently evaluate the progress schools are making and we celebrate these successes,” said Ginny Ehrlich, executive director of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. “Not only do we have 114 award-winning schools to celebrate today, but more than three-quarters of Healthy Schools Program schools are making measurable progress towards improving the health of their schools every year that they are involved in the program. Eighty-two percent of our schools have implemented the Alliance’s School Beverage Guidelines, and 69 percent have implemented the Alliance’s Competitive Foods Guidelines.”
Keynote speakers for this year’s Forum include President Clinton and Howell Wechsler, Ed.D., M.P.H., director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—Division of Adolescent and School Health.
School success stories and photographs of representatives from recognized schools may be downloaded for media use at: ftp://healthiergeneration.org/media
Anyone can make a difference in the health of a school by joining the Healthy Schools Program. To find out more, visit HealthierGeneration.org for free tools, tips, resources and updates on ways to help make our children’s generation a healthier generation.
About the Alliance for a Healthier Generation
The American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation joined forces in May of 2005 to create a healthier generation by addressing one of the nation’s leading public health threats—childhood obesity. The goal of the Alliance is to reduce the nationwide prevalence of childhood obesity by 2015, and to empower kids nationwide to make healthy lifestyle choices. The Alliance works to positively affect the places that can make a difference to a child’s health: homes, schools, restaurants, doctor’s offices and communities. For more information please visit: HealthierGeneration.org.
About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more than 35 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime.