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Articles: Health & Wellness

District Health Solutions Pay OffThe national debate over health care reform rages on, but some school districts are taking matters into their own hands and looking to employer-driven health care solutions to drive down costs and improve coverage. So far, the results are encouraging.

School Bus Brings Summer Meals to Rural Students

One snafu with summer meal programs that offer free meals to children—particularly in rural districts—is that more often than not, the students who need the meals the most are the ones that do not have transportation to get to the feeding sites. The San Marcos (Texas) Independent School District, home to 8,800 students, over 6,000 of whom receive free and reduced-price lunches, found a solution by converting a district school bus into a homegrown meals on wheels program.

In late June, two elementary school sisters in Tacoma (Wash.) Public Schools came home from a field day sunburned so badly that their mother rushed them to the hospital. Aside from being fair skinned, one girl, Zoe, has albinism, making her particularly sensitive to the sun. Because it was raining that morning, Zoe’s mother hadn’t put sunscreen on her daughter. Tacoma school officials said that sunscreen is monitored by the FDA as an over-the-counter drug and isn’t allowed in schools without a doctor’s note. The only exception is California.

The new program provides a meal for 1,700 students enrolled in after-school activities.

In Dec. 2010, President Barack Obama signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which provides federal funds for an after-school dinner program in schools where at least half the students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. Kansas City (Mo.) Public Schools serves a population of 16,000 students, and 84 percent qualify for free and reduced-price lunches.

Sheriff’s deputies escort T.J. Lane to his court arraignment in Chardon, Ohio on June 8, 2012. Lane pleaded not guilty to six charges for an alleged shooting at Chardon High School in February that left three students dead and three wounded.

I have been involved in the aftermath of 13 school shootings. Throughout my years of professional experience, I have stayed abreast with the latest research and literature. My hope is to help dispel the common assumptions associated with school shootings. After learning of my experiences, people often say to me, “School shootings today are increasing, and they are happening everywhere.” Although this assumption has been reinforced by the media, school shootings are actually very rare, and schools remain among the safest places for children.

Data from the 2007 WISQARS (Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System) provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that unintentional injury is the leading cause of death for 13- to 18-year-olds in the United States, with motor vehicle accidents accounting for approximately 70 percent of deaths. In total, 3,733 teens died in the year 2007 from motor-vehicle-related accidents.

Superintendent Myrrha Satow, center, meets with EdVantages management staff in Columbus, Ohio, in their weekly team meeting to discuss academic progress of special ed students. From left to right: Wendy Samir, special ed director, Satow, Amber Cummings, school psychologist.

For an hour and 15 minutes every day, 2,000 students at EdVantages charter schools in Ohio and 1.000 students in Performance Academies charter schools in Ohio and Florida expend physical energy. More specifically, they rotate playing tennis, playing soccer and practicing martial arts a week at a time. For the rest of the six hours and 45 minutes in their school day, they study math, reading, social studies and science.

Getting a National Nod

Deborah Delisle, a former state superintendent from Ohio, has been nominated to serve as the U.S. Department of Education’s assistant secretary of education. Delisle left her position last year when Republican Gov. John Kasich was elected.

 

Tourette’s Investigation

Environmentalist Erin Brockovich and a team investigating soil samples were ordered off the grounds of LeRoy (N.Y.) Junior-Senior High School in January. Since last summer, 15 students at the school have presented Tourette’s symptoms.

 

Red Bull, Rockstar and Monster are multibillion-dollar leaders in the energy drink industry. Touting empowering names and containing nearly 80 milligrams of caffeine per eight ounces, these drinks have become staples in the diets of young, active and stressed-out students. National health associations, however, warn that these drinks can be hazardous, particularly among student athletes.

It’s a drug prevention conversation—and program—that was largely missing as recently as a decade ago in most middle and high schools. In those days, the principal concern of health educators and disciplinarians alike was to keep students from misusing alcohol and illegal street drugs such as ecstasy, cocaine and even heroine.

Problem

Students in Niles Township High School District 219 in Skokie, Ill., were getting tired of paying more money for healthy foods at lunch and craved nutritious meals with a variety of flavors and choices at a fair price. Students were actually paying more for salad and carrot sticks than unhealthy foods such as pizza or fries. In early 2010, they asked the school board to make changes in the food. Because of the growing rates of diabetes and obesity in school-aged children around the nation, board members had to act.

In Garrison, N.Y., along the banks of the Hudson River, lies a renovated monastery that is home to the Garrison Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to contemplative teaching, which focuses on inner healing and awareness. Over 150 teachers from around the U.S. gathered in early November at this scenic retreat for a symposium, “Advancing the Science and Practice of Contemplative Learning.”

The concept of an open-door policy has deep meaning in the school district serving Mason County, a large pocket of northeastern Kentucky that comprises everything from rural farms to low-income housing projects in Maysville, the county seat. Each of Mason County School District’s 2,900 K12 students can expect an informal visit at home, every summer, from their teacher, or “advocate,” for the upcoming year.

Problem

The Rio Grande City Consolidated (Texas) Independent School District is located in Starr County, a poverty-stricken area that has a history of high death rates from diabetes. Located on the Mexican border, RGCCISD serves a 99 percent Hispanic population on 14 campuses. Of the nearly 10,800 students, 88 percent qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. On top of that, Texas is ranked worst in the nation for health care coverage, with 26 percent of residents lacking insurance.

Nationally, health-care costs are rising roughly 10 percent each year. Costs at the School District of Manatee County (Fla.), however, are rising at a mere 1 percent since the district implemented an employee wellness program, dubbed HealthVantage, three years ago. Since the wellness program took root, the district has saved nearly 14 percent on health-care costs compared to other districts and $1.3 million for medical and prescription services during the first half of 2010 compared to 2009.

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