A couple of weeks back, we provided an update on the progress that has been taking place in Spartanburg’s Healthy Communities Initiative, part of a two-year HealthyCommunity50 (HC50) Challenge. This last year has been a busy year as well for the Healthy Schools Initiative (the second component of HC50 and also part of a larger four-year investment by the Mary Black Foundation to create healthier environments at schools to combat childhood obesity).
Nine schools in Spartanburg, representing Spartanburg County School Districts 1, 2, 3, and 6, are participating in Spartanburg’s Healthy Schools Initiative (SHSI), impacting 4,700 students. SHSI incorporates training, technical assistance, and evaluation, in partnership with Partners for Active Living and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s (AHG) Healthy Schools Program as the framework. We celebrate with all nine of the schools because they have made significant strides toward creating healthier environments. A few examples include: • school gardens and education programs have been established; • family members have been connected to diabetes resources; • water fountains have been installed to provide greater opportunities to drink water throughout the day; • a policy was changed to allow water-drinking in classrooms; • empty classrooms were transformed into physical activity centers to be used during recess or as rewards; and • staff wellness challenges were carried out.
The evaluation of the initiative is being led by USC’s Arnold School of Public Health and Furman University. In year one, the team gathered data on the following to serve as the baseline for the remaining years and show the impact of the SHSI on the physical environment at each school: • nutrition and physical activity knowledge of the students, • Body Mass Index, • fitness and physical activity rates, • academic achievement, • school attendance, and • office referrals.
Healthier policies and practices improve student performance, attendance and behavior. Additionally, AHG has evidence that schools that participate in their Healthy Schools Program show a decline in obesity numbers.
We look forward to reporting on what the schools accomplish in the coming years.