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Think about it. Not only do your kids spend about 1,150 hours a year at school, but childhood is the best time to make healthy choices a habit.

It only makes sense, then, to involve everyone in the school community (students, teachers, parents, and community members) in promoting healthy eating, physical activity, and mental health.

What is Comprehensive School Health?

Comprehensive school health is an internationally recognized framework for supporting improvements in students’ educational outcomes while addressing school health in a planned, integrated and holistic way. It is not just about what happens in the classroom. Rather, it encompasses the whole school environment with actions addressing four distinct but inter-related pillars that provide a strong foundation for comprehensive school health: social and physical environment; teaching and learning; healthy school policy; and partnerships and services.  When actions in all four pillars are harmonized, students are supported to realize their full potential as learners – and as healthy, productive members of society.

What Is a Healthy School Community?

In a healthy school community, everyone is a partner, including students, teachers, parents, and community members. Involving all of these partners in health means that the school community can affect the health of parents, grandparents, and other family members as well as the health of students.

Your child receives the same health message whether he or she is at home, in school, or in the community. Kids also learn ways to stay healthy (especially through physical activity, healthy eating, and good mental health) and how to make good decisions about their health.

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Healthy school communities also offer

  • lots of health promotion (schools that do a really good job of promoting health may be called comprehensive school health (CSH) schools);
  • health policies or guidelines, e.g., healthy eating guidelines to control what is sold in school stores and vending machines;
  • a wellness-focused curriculum in the classroom; and
  • a supportive social environment and school culture that promotes physical and emotional well being for students, staff, and parents.

It doesn’t take a lot to create a healthier school. Some changes include

  • scheduling more physical education and physical activity;
  • offering healthy lunches or healthy foods for sale in school cafeterias;
  • banning the sale of soft drinks and increasing water and 100% juice sales;
  • providing healthy eating and active living education;
  • involving parents and community members in school activities; and
  • offering training for school staff on how to develop a healthy school community.

Why Promote this Kind of School?

Schools can promote both learning and healthy living. Consider these facts:

  • 95% of young people are enrolled in schools;
  • schools have always promoted physical activity, healthy eating, and positive social behaviour (so schools are not taking on new responsibilities);
  • well planned school programs can promote physical activity, healthy eating, mental health (e.g., by reducing bullying), and reducing TV viewing time.
  • physical activity (including physical education and other types of activity) andhealthy eating programs can lead to better academic performance;
  • healthy children and youth are better able to learn, live, work, and play.

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What Can You Do?

You can help your children’s school become a healthy school. For starters, ask some of these questions at your parent advisory council.

How does our school community support health promotion through its policies, student learning, and supportive environments?

Are all partners involved (students, parents, staff, community members)?

Are our kids getting the same messages about health at home, at school, and in the community?

A healthy school community involves all partners and sends children the same message in the home, school, and community. Children who attend a healthy school can make informed, healthy decisions that affect their own lives and the lives of their families. As a parent, you can certainly play an active role in promoting a healthy school community.

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Learn More

Alberta Coalition for Healthy School Communities (ACHSC)
The ACHSC is a network of partners committed to promoting and fostering healthy school communities.

Calgary Rocky View Student Health Partnership (CRVSHP)
The CRVSHP can help you access school-based services that help children and youth succeed at learning.

Ever Active Schools (EAS)
Ever Active Schools fosters social and physical environments in schools to support healthy and active lifestyles. The “Promising Practices” document provides practical ideas.

Living School
This Ontario pilot project encourages communities to support active and healthy living for children and youth.

Physical and Health Education Canada
This website provides advocacy materials, resources, information about school health, and links to resources in all provinces and territories

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