Evidence tells us that healthy children who have emotional supports, eat well and are active are better able to learn. As such, teachers, parents, health professionals and community partners are all interested in improving health at schools.
That’s where we come in. My name is Krista Manning, and I am one of two school health promotion liaison consultants with Eastern Health’s Health Promotion Division. Together with my colleague, Peggy Orbasli, we are embedded full-time into the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District (NLESD) which means that we work jointly with schools across the eastern region to promote health among children.
Schools play a significant role in developing and supporting health behaviours in students; behaviours that will last a lifetime. Healthy behaviours are important because they help to keep children – and later in life, adults – well, healthy and active.
Supporting children to be healthy
Both Peggy and I are committed to helping improve the health and learning of students by supporting school health policies and initiatives at the provincial, district and school levels. We are available to schools and staff of both NLESD and Eastern Health to advance healthy living policies; current best health practices; and funding opportunities to support healthy living initiatives in schools that aim to foster healthy behaviours.
We are firm believers that healthier students learn better. Our goal is to inspire school communities to use a comprehensive school health approach as a way to promote both health and academic achievement.
As health consultants, we understand that forging positive working relationships with school district staff, as well as with school administrators and teachers, is key to achieving this goal. In essence, that is what makes our jobs as school health promotion liaisons so unique – although we are Eastern Health employees, we are part of the school system too.
Healthy schools in action
So what is a healthy school? It is a place where all students have the opportunity to participate in healthy activities and are engaged and connected to their school community. A place where students have many opportunities – in the classroom and in every aspect of their school experience – to nurture healthy physical, mental, social and intellectual development.
Peggy and I respond to calls from schools regarding a broad range of health topics: eating healthy, living tobacco-free, prevention of injuries, sexual health, physical activity and allergies, to name a few. We collaborate with schools by connecting them with appropriate partners and resources, internal and external to Eastern Health, such as public health nurses and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and by providing recommendations based on best practices, and in consultation with other health promotion consultants and other health professionals.
This past year, Peggy and I helped over 40 schools implement the Healthy School Planner Physical Activity project. With support from the Department of Children, Seniors and Social Development, this initiative provides schools with funding to promote physical activity.
Perlwin Elementary, in Winterton, was one of the schools who availed of the funding. The school developed a walking trail to create a safe route for children to access the community playground from the school. By doing so, the school provided students with more opportunities to be active given they can use the playground during recess and lunch.
Queen Elizabeth High, in Conception Bay South, also participated in the project. They used the funds to purchase equipment to support lunch time and after-school activities such as geocaching, badminton, soccer and tchoukball. This equipment enables the school to give students the opportunity to participate in a variety of activities, while appealing to a wider range of students.
In addition, we work closely with the Wellness Coalition-Avalon East and Eastern Regional Wellness Coalition to promote partnerships between schools and community groups working towards wellness. And we also ensure that appropriate health promotion and education campaigns, like Eastern Health’s Veggies & Fruit, and Bridge the gAPP, are promoted within the NLESD and throughout schools.
At school and at home
Health and education go hand-in-hand. Schools are most successful in creating a healthy environment for students when the whole school community works together. That means parents are also key partners in fostering healthy environments at home.
So, what can you do – as a parent, grandparent or caregiver– to help ensure your young learner’s success at school?
- set expectations – did you know that high parental expectations have the greatest impact on student achievement?
- talk with your child – communicating regularly with your child is better for improving their academic performance than monitoring homework, being home after school or limiting TV time!
- have a positive attitude towards learning – focus on attitudes more than marks.
- read together, and make it fun.
For more parental resources, please visit: https://www.nlesd.ca/families/healthandwellness.jsp
Together, we can make healthy schools possible across the region!
This story was written by Krista Manning and Peggy Orbasli, school health promotion liaison consultants with Eastern Health.