The Total Child

Building a Healthier Future: Invest in Our Children. Stop Judging, Start Helping

(Healthy Eating and Active Living) Permanent link

By Rebecca Shaw, Project Coordinator

 "Those children are our children too. Compassion helps us stop judging and start helping."- U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy


Sitting in a packed room among hundreds of representatives from organizations dedicated to ensuring that all children grow up to be a healthy weight, I was amazed about how an effort that began six years ago had blossomed into a powerful force, truly making a difference.

The Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) is a national effort to make the healthy choice the easy choice for American families, to help end the childhood obesity epidemic within a generation. Last week PHA hosted their annual Building a Healthier Future Summit.

From the start of the Summit, it was clear that the discussions focused around mobilizing resources to educate individuals from early childhood about the importance of healthy eating and physical activity and help ensure that everyone can be successful in this aspect of life. As Patricia Nece, a panel speaker who has lived with obesity her entire life stated, “We need to move away from blame and shame, and towards constructive solutions.” It was clear that a collaborative, supportive environment has facilitated the success of PHA.

During the opening and closing plenaries, a vast and varied number of organizations - from universities, to non-profits, to food product sponsors, to hospitals - were recognized for their work in their commitments to build a healthier future.

Every organization represented at this Summit made significant contributions to this work, often in ways that are not typically thought about. One breakout session addressed how convenience stores are working to influence consumers in making healthy choices at the checkout lines by replacing candy and soda with healthier options, like water and fruit, near the cash register.

Another breakout session on early childhood education for children highlighted how Pre-K has the highest rate of expulsion than all other grade levels. When children are engaged in physical activity from an early age, they find constructive ways to utilize their energy. There’s a link between health and education; they are not mutually exclusive.

For more than a decade, AASA has worked to address the childhood obesity epidemic by focusing on issues related to Healthy Eating and Active Living in schools. During the summit, AASA was recognized as an Educational Leadership Partner of Let’s Move! Active Schools,a sub-initiative of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign.

 logophasummit  PHASummitKB

As a representative of a new partner, I, along with my co-worker Kelly Beckwith (pictured above, representing AASA on stage), were able to network with other partners of this initiative. We were able to have deeper discussions with our peers who also focus on keeping kids healthy inside schools.

 “Our children are a reflection of our investment in them." -First Lady Michelle Obama

As First Lady Michelle Obama took the stage to deliver her keynote speech during the closing plenary, the room filled with anticipation. That Friday, the FDA finalized the new and improved Nutrition Facts label, to help give consumers the information they need to make healthy choices. “You'll no longer need a microscope to figure out whether the food is actually good for your kids,” said the First Lady.


The First Lady also told the audience that the work from each and every organization that works with the Partnership for Healthier America would be sustained long after her family leaves the White House. "I may not be First Lady next year, but I will always be here as a partner in this effort," she stated to a standing ovation.

Experiencing the commitment exuded in so many sectors and in such a variety of stakeholders from this summit has made me confident that this effort will be sustained for many years. I was honored to participate in this conference.

Preventing Teen Pregnancy and Building Strong Futures

(National Awareness) Permanent link

The following guest blog post comes from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Office of Adolescent Health.

Temper tantrums, spilled food, and dirty diapers are big enough challenges for any parent. What happens when these experiences occur during the already tumultuous years of adolescence? In recognition of National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Awareness Month in May, let’s join together to raise awareness about this important issue facing our nation’s young people and the educators, parents, and providers who care for them.  

The good news is that the national teen pregnancy rate has declined almost continuously over the last two decades and has reached a historic low. Yet, as a nation, we still have a lot of work ahead of us. The U.S. teen birth rate is higher than that of many other developed countries, including Canada and the United Kingdom. It’s estimated that eleven percent of young women will give birth and nine percent of young men will become fathers in the U.S. before turning twenty.

Childbearing during adolescence negatively affects the parents, their children, and society. While approximately 90 percent of women who do not give birth during adolescence graduate from high school, only about half of teen mothers receive a high school diploma by 22 years of age. Teen mothers are also more likely to rely on public assistance and be poor as adults. Their children are also more likely to have lower school achievement and to drop out of high school and to have higher rates of health problems, incarceration, and unemployment.

There is hope, however, and our children deserve our very best efforts to ensure a bright future. We know that engagement in learning is linked to delayed childbearing in adolescents. Teens who are enrolled in school, participate in after-school activities, have positive attitudes toward school, and perform well educationally are less likely to have or father a baby.

Since we started in 2010, the Office of Adolescent Health (OAH) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has used the best scientific evidence available to prevent pregnancy among teens and to help them grow into healthy, thriving adults. Our Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) Program has funded organizations across the country to implement programs that have demonstrated effectiveness in schools and communities, or to develop and evaluate new, innovative TPP approaches. With programs in 39 states and the District of Columbia, we reached over half a million young people ages 10-19 from 2010-2015. As we move forward, we anticipate more than doubling that figure to reach approximately 1.2 million youth over the next five years.  

There are also resources for expectant and parenting teens and their families. Through the Pregnancy Assistance Fund, OAH funds states and tribal entities to provide a seamless network of supportive services. We also want to remind you that Title IX provides protections for pregnant and parenting students, and that the U.S. Department of Education has information for administrators and students clarifying requirements.

 Preventing teen pregnancy requires thoughtful, multi-faceted and multidisciplinary solutions. Recognizing the well-established connections between health and academic achievement, schools play an important role in not just helping young people avoid pregnancy, but also in supporting their overall developmental needs. Together, we can continue to help teens avoid risky behaviors and provide them with the resources and opportunities to thrive, now and in the future. 

To learn more about how educators can promote adolescent health and healthy development, please visit:

Office of Adolescent Health:
Center for Disease Control and Prevention:

We’re Challenging You to Be Active This May and Beyond

(Healthy Eating and Active Living , National Awareness) Permanent link

Note: This is a cross post from the blog. You can find the original post here.

 Since October 2015, AASA has been an Education Leadership Partner of Let's Move! Active Schools, a sub-initiative of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign. Learn more about our work on Healthy Eating and Active Living in schools.


 Posted by Shellie Pfohl, Executive Director of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Fitness on May 02, 2016

 May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month! President Obama has encouraged the nation to engage in regular physical activity and sport participation this month and we can’t wait to see how everyone rises up to this challenge. There are so many fun ways to get and stay active:

  • playing sports with friends
  • walking your dog
  • gardening in a community garden
  • going for a hike in a national park
  • recess and physical education at school
  • fitness classes with friends and family

The possibilities are endless! No matter your age, location, or ability, you can find ways to be active that are fun and work for you!

 Current Physical Activity Guidelines recommend that adults participate in at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week and youth participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Physical activity, along with proper nutrition, provides long-term health benefits for everyone. Did you know regular activity helps prevent and manage chronic disease and supports positive mental health and healthy aging? It can also improve sleep, reduce stress and increase self-esteem. There are so many important reasons to stay fit and active, so get moving and encourage your friends and family to join you on your fitness journey.

 The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition has made it our mission to help you have opportunities to move more, have fun and live a healthier life. In collaboration with First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative, the Council’s Let’s Move! Active Schools initiative helps schools incorporate activity into all aspects of the school day. To break down barriers for individuals with disabilities and to promote environments where people of all ability levels are able to lead healthy and active lives, we have put forth a collaborative international call to action campaign: Commit to Inclusion. Additionally, the I Can Do It, You Can Do It! program facilitates increased access and opportunities for children and adults with disabilities to participate in regular activity and learn about nutrition. There are so many different ways for everyone to stay fit and active in their home, school or community. Find an activity that you love and – let’s move!

 As a fun and easy way to track your fitness progress and stick to your commitments, we encourage you to participate in the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award program. This free program is available to anyone above the age of six and helps you set physical activity and nutrition goals. And the best part of the program is that it’s not just for May. It’s available year-round to support your healthy and active goals.

 To find other tips to get active during National Physical Fitness and Sports Month and beyond, visit Share your fitness journey on Twitter with the President’s Council @FitnessGov using #MoveInMay. We can’t wait to see how you are staying active and healthy during the month of May and beyond!


Powerful Practices and Collaborative Efforts to Address Asthma in Schools

(National Awareness) Permanent link

 2016 Asthma Awareness Month

AASA has a long history of addressing asthma in schools.

The goal of AASA’s work on asthma was always to build the capacity of school district leaders to develop best practices related to asthma in schools, ultimately to keep children with asthma in school and learning.

In 2001, we were first funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on an asthma management initiative we called The Asthma Wellness Project. Sixteen school districts worked with us to develop Powerful Practices: A Checklist for School Districts Addressing the Needs of Students with Asthma. This document, completed in 2006 and still relevant 10 years later, helps districts see both their strengths and areas for growth related to helping schools best serve the needs of children with asthma. We encourage you to download it and start assessing your district today.

 When The Asthma Wellness Project ended, AASA’s Children’s Programs department was funded for a second, five-year cycle by CDC. With the Leadership Forum for Healthy Students and Healthy Schools, we worked in collaboration with the National School Boards Association to lead five state teams to address asthma at the state level – in government and in schools. The report of that work is called Better Together: Collaborating to Improve Student Success and Well-Being.

If your district hasn’t addressed asthma management practices in a while, start now. Use the Powerful Practices and reach out to community organizations, like your local American Lung Association, for assistance. It is Asthma Awareness Month, after all!

Additional Resources



Alternative School Breakfast Grab-n-Go Model Help Students

(Alternative School Breakfast) Permanent link

  This guest post was written by Superintendent Dan Decker of Neosho School R-5 District (MO) reflecting on the first year of alternative school breakfast implementation during the 2015-16 school year. Neosho School District is part of AASA’s School Breakfast Community of Practice, an initiative funded by the Walmart Foundation. This article was originally published in the Neosho Daily News.

  By Dan Decker, Superintendent, Neosho R-5 School District (MO)

dan decker
 (Pictured L-R) Dan Decker, Superintendent, Neosho School District; Angela Collier, Senior Manager, Corporate Affairs, Walmart Foundation; and Kelly Beckwith, Project Director, AASA at a school breakfast site visit at December 2015.

 Good morning, Wildcat Nation. It looks like spring may be here to stay with warmer temperatures and everything turning green.

This time of year brings a great deal of excitement to the school scene. As temperatures warm up, students are counting down the days to summer break. For teachers and administrators, this time of year brings the stress of testing and completion of learning goals for the year.

Before we know it, the 2015-16 school year will be finished and it will be time to look ahead and plan for the 2016-17 school year.

This year has been a great one for many reasons, but one that stands out for me is that it was our district’s first year of providing universal free breakfast to our students through the Grab-n-Go Breakfast model. This wonderful opportunity was made possible through a grant the district received from the American Association of School Administrators (AASA).

Our school breakfast team spent [a few days in mid-April] in meetings in North Carolina with the AASA administration to determine the effectiveness of our program in Neosho. Through the efforts of many on the Neosho School District team, we have seen a breakfast participation increase ranging from 50 percent to 75 percent in our students.

We also have seen reduced visits to the nurse for stomachaches and a decrease in student discipline, especially in morning classes. We will continue to collect data and analyze the program to ensure we make it the best it can be for all Neosho students.

When this grant application was made known to me, my first thought was, “Awesome! There are people out there who realize the importance of nutrition in learning and are willing to put money toward it.”

Countless studies have been conducted in the past few years concerning how hunger not only affects learning, but also discipline and other factors that students encounter throughout their day. If we can get students fed in the morning, it will prepare them for a successful day where they can concentrate on their education rather than a hungry stomach.

Unfortunately, regardless of how much we’d like it to work, the traditional breakfast plan alone just doesn’t address all of the needs. It’s no surprise that we have students who rely on school meals as their only source of nutrition each day.

Many of those students also struggle with attendance, tardiness and a lack of stability that doesn’t encourage healthy habits. The traditional breakfast plan also forces students to choose between valued socialization time in the morning hours or eating a nutritional breakfast.

This grant has provided an opportunity to have an alternative breakfast program in the district that gives us the means to address student hunger at another level, plus it will move us one step closer to removing loopholes in our efforts to help students in this area. We can’t expect students to put education at the top of their list when their basic needs aren’t being met.

AASA awarded 10 grants across the country. After implementation of the Grab-and-Go breakfast model, data such as attendance, tardies, discipline, nurse visits, ISS/OSS and academic achievement is collected for reporting. AASA directors complete site visits. These visits may or may not be scheduled.

Grab-and-Go breakfasts are packaged in plastic bags for students to pick up on their way to class. Grab-and-Go meals consist of cold and hot meals. Students are given 15 to 20 minutes during class to eat and are responsible for the disposal of their trash.

As we continue to move ahead at Neosho School District with the mantra of “what is best for kids” on our minds, this program definitely fits.