This is an excerpt from Essentials of Teaching Health Education 2nd Edition With HKPropel Access, The by Sarah Benes & Holly Alperin.
Most will agree that healthy children are important to a healthy society and that student health and academic success are linked, something research has supported. If students aren’t healthy and aren’t in school or aren’t able to fully concentrate while in school, they are not likely to achieve their academic potential (Raspberry, Tiu, Kann, et al., 2017). This means we need to consider the needs of the whole child when planning education systems.
Unfortunately, many students have health-related problems that affect learning. Although not all health issues among youth are tracked systematically, some have been shown to negatively affect student achievement. Examples include vision problems, asthma, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), teenage pregnancy, lack of physical activity, and not eating breakfast (Basch, 2010). These health problems would hinder any child, but we have also learned that urban minority youth from low-income families (Basch, 2010) are more likely to experience these problems largely as a result of health inequities (see chapter 3). The health problems described above have been shown to negatively impact teaching and learning. Therefore, the school’s critical role is to create an environment that effectively and meaningfully addresses student health. This means going beyond the health education classroom and into other areas of the school building and grounds to consider how your school can become a place where students can grow and thrive.
Even though evidence supports the need to address health issues and their effects on academic achievement, differences of opinion occur when we start discussing how to make this happen in schools. Specifically, people tend to disagree when discussing the structures, supports, and education that students need to be healthy and academically successful and when discussing whose role it is to ensure that these structures, supports, and educational approaches are in place. It would be unrealistic to place the entire burden of health and educational outcomes on schools. However, for students to be successful and well adjusted, school systems must take a thoughtful look at the needs of students from multiple dimensions. Healthy students are better learners, and schools play a vital role in student outcomes and success.
Student success can occur on many levels, and our role as educators is to ensure that we provide students with the greatest chance for success. Having a coordinated, equity-focused approach to student success, regardless of life circumstances outside of school, levels the playing field, allows students to focus on academics, and helps create a healthier and more successful society.
An approach that coordinates the efforts of many within the school and community is the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) model (see figure 6.1). This approach, formalized in 2014, brings together the original coordinated school health approach, the Coordinated School Health model, and the Whole Child Initiative of ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development). The development of the WSCC approach integrates and coordinates the “goals of the education and health sector,” and “as the next evolution of CSH, the approach speaks to leaders and practitioners of both sectors on the local level” (Lewallen, Hunt, Potts-Datema, Zaza, & Giles, 2015, p. 735). This updated approach continues to guide our work and is designed to provide a framework to advance the “educational attainment and healthy development for students” (Lewallen et al., 2015, p. 737).
The WSCC model has 10 components:
- Health education
- Physical education and physical activity
- Health services
- Nutrition environment and services
- Counseling, psychological, and social services
- Physical environment
- Social and emotional climate
- Employee wellness
- Family engagement
- Community involvement
The intention of the WSCC approach is that children are at the center of everything we do in schools. The role of adults is to ensure that students are healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged at school (ASCD, 2014). This occurs when each component works together, and it becomes a necessary factor in making sure that policies and practices improve the learning and health of students. We discuss each component in this section, but if you want more information as well as a tool for self-evaluation, explore the School Health Index (SHI; http://nccd.cdc.gov/DASH_SHI/default/Login.aspx), the Health Education Curriculum Analysis Tool (HECAT; www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/HECAT/index.htm), and the Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program (CSPAP; https://cdc.gov/healthyschools/physicalactivity/index.htm) from the CDC. All will be helpful as you begin to examine how your school can better meet its students’ health needs. We encourage you to also consider using tools that assess equity in your schools, such as tools from the Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium (www.maec.org/res/tools) or the Handbook on Measuring Equity in Education from UNESCO.