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School Health Education

The Indian Health Service Health Education program works to collaborate with local school systems - state public schools, Bureau of Indian Affair Schools and/or private schools - that educate Native American and Alaskan Native students. Health Educators and those working in a school setting should incorporate the basic principles of school health into their lesson plans. The National Health Education Standards [PDF - 20KB] is available to assist in that effort.

School Health Education Topics

The IHS Comprehensive School Health Program

1. Healthy School Environment

The Comprehensive School Health Model stresses the importance of providing a safe social and physical environment that allows children and staff to focus on learning. A "safe" school is one that promotes personal growth, healthy interpersonal relationships with fellow students and staff, wellness, and freedom from discrimination and abuse. A child who doesn't worry about safety is in a better position to grow, learn and explore their world.

The community, school, parents, and businesses must work together to develop policies and procedures to ensure a healthy school environment where children are protected. Specific examples of guidelines to follow for a healthy school environment include establishing emergency procedures for:bomb scares, drug-related situations, gang member disruptions, emergency communications, tobacco use, universal precautions for handling blood and other body fluids, sanitation, and playground safety.

2. Health Education Curriculum

Health Education provides each child with the skills and knowledge to make health decisions that are best for them.

Successful planning of a school health education program requires active community involvement to ensure that the community's expectations and concerns are addressed by the school health education curriculum. Together, the community and school can develop a program which reflects community culture and is sensitive to the needs of children and their families.

A quality health education program includes a sequential curriculum spanning pre-kindergarten through high school graduation. A health education curriculum that supports a vision of healthy children is the first step toward helping all students develop to be their personal best. Examples of guidelines to consider implementing as part a comprehensive health education curriculum could include: two to three hours weekly of instruction in each elementary grade, two semesters of health education at the high school level, routine health education in service to strengthen teachers' skills, and a curriculum that is sequentially based and includes the ten content areas of health education.

3. School Food Nutrition Services

As nutrition plays a vital role in a child's ability to learn, children need the support of comprehensive nutrition and services. The Comprehensive School Health Model supports a sound student nutrition program of wholesome and enjoyable foods in the cafeteria and throughout the school. Positive nutrition education provided by staff and parents also contributes to good nutrition habits. In the classroom, nutrition can be used as a tool for teaching math, science, reading and languages. In service, nutrition education for food service personnel, following the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, fundraising activities involving only health foods, and classroom instruction on nutrition are only a few of the ways to follow a comprehensive school health program.

4. Health Services

The Comprehensive School Health Model promotes the delivery of health services for children of all ages. School health services include: development of student health records, mental health services, counseling, speech therapy, well-child physicals and dental exams, fluoridation, immunizations; physical development screenings, eye exams, treatment of health problems, and prevention and control of disease. Health Services are delivered by those such as school nurses, school psychologists, and public/community health nurses from the tribal or IHS health programs. Comprehensive school health services are identified at each school.

5. Physical Education

The mind and body are integrated in comprehensive school health program. Physical education should promote and provide opportunities for children to develop lifelong fitness habits. Phys Ed provides all students the opportunity to develop movement skills, to increase muscle strength and flexibility, to improve aerobic endurance, and get to and maintain a healthy body weight. Physical Education can also develop confidence and skills. By providing outlets for stress, developing goals and decision-making skills, and emphasizing self-confidence and personal discipline, children gain a positive sense of self-worth.

Components of a comprehensive physical education program include: daily participation by all students in physical education, at least 50% of PE class time spent in physical activity, instructors using curriculums sequentially adjusted by student grade and developmental level, requiring all PE teachers to have certification in physical education, training them in adaptive physical education, and at least 70% of the physical education classroom time in upper grades is devoted to promoting lifetime physical education activities.

6. Counseling, Guidance and Mental Health Services

A school counseling program provides prevention and intervention programs, career awareness, and skill building tools for success in work, relationships, and life. Professional staff within the school counseling program provide early detection of potential problems, identification of at-risk children, and programs and referrals which support children and their families.

How established are the counseling services at your school? School-based counseling and personal support to students might include in-service education on the students' culture, support of life skills training for students in health classes, working with families regarding students special health needs, and providing leadership on school-wide mental and emotional health promotion programs.

7. Worksite Health Promotion

Nurturing the skills and potential of a child requires teachers and all school staff to be wellness promoters themselves. "Heal thyself." School staff serve as role models, their actions and words have tremendous influence over a child's health behaviors. The Comprehensive School Health Model promotes the involvement of school staff in their own personal wellness. We encourage the school staff to participate in activities such as stress management, smoking cessation, nutrition classes, exercise, and positive support programs.

Examples of worksite wellness for the staff include providing: healthy food choices for teachers and staff, an environment free of alcohol and other drugs a smoke free environment, sponsoring staff weight control classes, and offering staff self-improvement classes.

8. Family, School and Community Partnerships

A child is ready to learn and to be healthy when everyone - their family, school, and community - works together to support their growth. The Comprehensive school Health Model encourages partnerships between the school, family, and community. The purpose of these partnerships is to coordinate and activate all possible health and education resources. School health councils, which include members from the community, local businesses, and the medical profession can serve as a means for developing partnerships and improving the health of students.

What describes your school's current efforts on following activities to promote partnerships for healthy development of your students: sharing information with collaborating tribal and community agencies, teachers routinely visiting student's homes, parent involvement in the school? These are just some of the many ways in which we encourage a partnership between the school, the family and the community.

School Health Nursing and Comprehensive School Health Programs

The Definition of School Nursing:
"School nursing is a specialized practice of professional nursing that advances the well being, academic success, and life-long achievement of students. To that end, school nurses facilitate positive student responses to normal development; promote health and safety; intervene with actual and potential health problems; provide case management services; and actively collaborate with others to build student and family capacity for adaptation, self management, self advocacy, and learning."
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