Healthy School Environments for Students
We understand that creating a culture of school health and wellness doesn’t happen overnight, which is why we are here to support schools with guidance and resources to establish healthier school environments.
By following the steps outlined below, schools will ensure success and sustainability while helping to promote healthy behaviors in their students that can last a lifetime.
Louisiana School Health Advisory Council
Established in 2017, the Louisiana School Health Advisory Council (LA SHAC) mission is to equip and empower Louisiana schools and communities to build and sustain environments where all children are healthy, safe, engaged, supported and challenged.
1. Build Support
Having a team is essential to implementing successful and sustainable change. We recommend including representation from all 10 components of the Whole School, Whole Community Whole Child (WSCC) model in your team. The WSCC model is a student-centered framework that emphasizes community support for healthy schools.
While Louisiana law requires school districts to create a district-level health advisory council, Well-Ahead Louisiana helps make it easy. The District Health Advisory Council (DHAC) is responsible for advising the school board on physical activity for students, physical and health education, nutrition and overall student health. The council should include parents of students and individuals representing the community. We support DHACs with resources and educational opportunities, so they can create a culture of health and wellness in their schools and districts.
In addition, every Louisiana school should form a wellness committee to ensure a healthy school environment for all. A school wellness committee is an action-oriented advisory group that focuses on the health and well-being of students, staff and families in a school community. The school wellness committee implements the district wellness policy and leads other health-related initiatives.
School wellness committees focus on implementing programs and activities that meet the unique needs of their students and staff. These teams support the development of a healthier school environment by:
- Completing the School Health Index (see Assess Your School section below)
- Promoting the vision and goals for a healthy school to parents, students and the community
- Organizing program and policy efforts
- Collaborating with the district-level advisory council to evaluate policy efforts and assess progress
District health advisory councils work to promote health and wellness in their schools by providing guidance and support for school-level wellness committees. Advisory councils:
- Ensure the district’s local school wellness policy stays up-to-date with changes made by local and federal governments
- Raise awareness of district-level health policies among parents, educators and community members
- Help schools meet the district’s wellness policy
- Identify gaps in policies, programs and processes and find resources to address them.
2. Assess Your School
The CDC’s School Health Index (SHI) gives school wellness committees an opportunity to reflect, connect and create a roadmap to better student health. The School Health Index is an online tool schools use to improve their health and safety policies and practices. School wellness committees and District Health Advisory Councils utilize the School Health Index to create goals and measure successes.
Completing the School Health Index must be a group effort across your wellness committee to create a holistic review and approach strategy. Well-Ahead recommends updating your school’s School Health Index every year to create an accurate depiction of progress and successes. The CDC created a helpful guide for using the School Health Index.
District Health Advisory Councils use the School Health Index results to identify strengths and opportunities to improve the district wellness policy and to monitor implementation of the policy.
3. Develop an Action Plan
After establishing a team and completing a baseline assessment, school wellness committees should develop a plan for improvement. The School Health Index seamlessly guides wellness committees through the planning process. Schools should share their plans with the District Health Advisory Council and the school community, including parents, families, students, staff and out-of-school time program leaders.
School wellness committees should choose one to four areas to improve each year, based on strengths and weaknesses identified in their assessment. The committee will list action steps it will take to implement the healthy changes. These goals and action items should generate excitement, lay the foundation for long-term goals and align with the school’s health and wellness vision as well as the district’s local wellness policy.
Districts can view schools’ action plans to identify resources and partners that will support and strengthen schools’ efforts.
4. Explore Resources
There are many community partners and existing programs in Louisiana with the shared goal of helping students and school staff make healthy choices. Well-Ahead is here to connect schools and districts with resources to support school health initiatives.
We recommend District Health Advisory Councils provide professional development for educators through the Healthy Schools Training Krewe to support implementation of the district wellness policy and school action plans.
5. Take Action
Once all of the preparation and planning is in place, it’s time to take action! Wellness committee and advisory council leaders should delegate responsibilities to team members with a follow-up date and periodically check in on progress.
As schools meet milestones, it is important to celebrate them! There’s nothing better than a celebration for a job well done. Celebrating successes helps build momentum and encourage others to join in the fun of creating healthier, happier school environments.