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School Health Education

The Indian Health Service Health Education program strives to collaborate with those local school systems that educate Native American and Alaskan Native students, whether these are local school systems - state public schools, Bureau of Indian Affair Schools and/or private schools. Health Educators and those persons working in a school setting should strive to incorporate the basic principles of school health. 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

Children and staff work and learn best when they can focus on learning. The Comprehensive School Health Model recognizes the importance of providing a safe social and physical environment. A "safe" school is a school that promotes personal growth, healthy interpersonal relationships with fellow students and staff, wellness and freedom from discrimination and abuse. The child who does not worry about safety is in a position to grow, learn and explore their world.

The community, school, parents and business must work together to develop policies and procedures that assure that a healthy school environment is created and children are protected. Specific examples of guidelines to follow for a health 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, playground safety, attractiveness of school, etc.

2. Health Education Curriculum

Health Education provides each child with the skills and knowledge that will enable them to make and practice 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 the school health education curriculum. Together, the community and school develop a school health education program which reflects the culture of the community and is sensitive to the needs of the child and their family.

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 health children is the first step toward helping all students develop their own best personal growth. To be considered as a comprehensive health education curriculum, the following issues would be addressed by a comprehensive curriculum: two to three hours of instructions weekly in each elementary grade, two semesters of health education at the high school level, routine health education in service to strengthen teachers' skills, a curriculum that is sequentially based, and includes the Ten content areas of health education, etc.

3. School Food Nutrition Services

Nutrition plays a vital role in the child's ability to learn. Children need the support of the 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. Good nutrition also includes positive nutrition education provided by staff and parents. In the classroom, nutrition can be used as a tool for teaching math, science, reading and languages. Inservice nutrition education for food service personnel, following the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, funding raising activities involve only health foods, classroom instruction on nutrition are among only a few of the guidelines followed by 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: fluoridation, development of student health records, mental health services, counseling, speech therapy, well-child physicals and dental exams; immunizations; physical development screenings; eye exams, treatment of health problems, and; prevention and control of disease. Health Services are delivered by such people 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 not separated in a comprehensive school health program. Physical education should be promote and provide opportunities for children to develop lifelong fitness habits. Physical education provides all students the opportunity to develop movement skills, to increase muscle strength and flexibility, to improve their aerobic endurance and maintain a healthy body weight. Physical Education develops 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 is spent in physical activity, teachers have curriculum that is sequentially developed by grade and developmental level of students, all PE teaching have teaching certification in physical education, teachers are trained in adaptive physical education, at least 70% of the physical education classroom time in upper grades is devoted to 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 would include in-service education on the students' culture, support of life skills training for students in health classes, working with families regarding special health needs of the students, 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, they 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, providing an environment free of alcohol and other drugs, providing a smoke free environment, sponsoring weight control classes for staff, and offering self-improvement classes for staff.

8. Family, School and Community Partnerships

In a village everyone works together to create harmony, maintain balance and assure general good health. A child is ready to learn and to be healthy when everyone, their family, the 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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