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Alliance for a Healthier Generation Receives $3.1 Million Grant

Expansion of the Healthy Schools Program means health and wellness resources will now reach more than 400,000 students and staff in schools nationwide.

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The program expansion means health and wellness resources will now reach more than 400,000 students and staff in schools nationwide

Kaiser Permanente, America’s largest integrated health system, awarded a $3.1 million grant to the Alliance for a Healthier Generation to expand the Healthy Schools Program in Northern and Southern California, Oregon, Mid-Atlantic states, Colorado and Washington state.

Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program helps districts and schools determine their individual health needs, implement new health policies and practices, and continuously improve the school’s culture of health. The Healthy Schools Program is a cornerstone of Healthier Generation’s mission to empower kids to develop lifelong healthy habits by ensuring the environments that surround them provide and promote good health. The program is key to Healthier Generation’s mission to promote healthy habits for kids, and continues to be a signature part of the Kaiser Permanente Thriving Schools initiative.

Healthier Generation and Kaiser Permanente have been working together since 2013, delivering the Healthy Schools Program to 21 school districts, including 330 high-need schools, reaching 198,000 students and 16,500 staff. Together, they have continuously increased their impact on school nutrition, physical education and physical activity for students and staff. Now, with Kaiser Permanente’s new grant and expanded support, they will reach an additional 210,000 students and 17,500 staff in 350 more schools.

“All kids deserve the chance to attend a healthy school, and Kaiser Permanente is helping us make that opportunity a reality,” said Dr. Howell Wechsler, chief executive officer, Alliance for a Healthier Generation. “Kaiser Permanente has been an invaluable partner, and their continued support will give even more students the opportunity to develop the healthy habits they need to succeed in and out of the classroom.”

"We know healthy children are better learners,” said Angela Coron, managing director, Community Benefit, Kaiser Permanente Southern California. “Our medical centers have a long history of partnering with local schools to address many needs including immunizations, literacy, internships, health education, as well as the focus on nutrition and physical activity. Expanding our partnership with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation is a part of Kaiser Permanente’s ongoing commitment to improve the health of the communities we serve.”

The Healthy Schools Program launched in 2006 in 13 states and 231 schools, through support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Today, it is the nation’s largest, school-based childhood obesity prevention initiative. It has reached more than 20 million students through its work to improve and sustain physical education, health education, child nutrition and staff wellness policies and programs in more than 40,000 schools. The Healthy Schools Program is now partly funded in several cities nationwide by Kaiser Permanente.

Participating schools describe a ‘positive change in culture’

In Southern California, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and the San Diego Unified School District currently participate in the Healthy Schools Program. Representatives from LAUSD’s Rosa Parks Learning Center and Rowan Avenue Elementary School agree they have seen a positive change in culture at their sites since beginning the program nearly four years ago.

Both kindergarten-through-fifth-grade campuses have implemented various activities for staff, teachers, and students to inspire healthy eating and exercise habits, as well as techniques to manage and reduce stress.  

From offering morning fitness walks onsite and short exercises to music during class, to creating a wellness committee, healthy-tip newsletters, and a small, onsite gym for staff and teachers, the hard work is paying off.

“It’s an excellent program,” said Leana Rodriguez, RN, Rosa Parks Learning Center. “When you get everyone on board, it’s possible to make significant changes.”

More students and staff, for example, are selecting water and fruit and vegetable options over soda, pizza, and cupcakes.

“I’m even seeing more kids choosing the salad option at lunch,” said Rodriguez, a credentialed school nurse. “We also talk to parents, because change starts at home, too.”

At Rowan Avenue Elementary School, program efforts primarily target staff and teachers, who then model healthy behaviors for each other and the students.

“The program has increased awareness about the importance of taking care of ourselves – to get enough sleep, eat healthy, move more, and do mindful techniques and breathing exercises to relax,” said Bertha Soto, assistant principal, Rowan Avenue Elementary, and a former personal trainer. “The goal is to take what we learn right back to the classroom, and encourage the kids to develop healthier habits, too.”

Advice on achieving success

Rosa Parks Learning Center in North Hills and Rowan Avenue Elementary School in Los Angeles have both received the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s National Healthy Schools Bronze Award. The honor acknowledges schools that have implemented changes to create healthier school environments.

As more schools join the Healthy Schools Program, Soto and Rodriguez offered some advice:

“To be successful, you definitely need a supportive administration; a committed, passionate leader to keep things moving; and a dedicated committee to help,” said Soto.

Most of all, be patient.

“Don’t try to change everything all at once,” said Rodriguez. “Start gradually – and be consistent.”

Kaiser Permanente is one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, Kaiser Permanente has a mission to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of its 11.8 million members and the communities it serves in eight states and the District of Columbia. For more information about our programs in the community, visit community.kp.org.

Kaiser Permanente Thriving Schools seeks to impact health in schools on a broad scale while addressing high priority health needs in the specific communities where it operates. Thriving Schools collaborates closely with more than 350 schools to provide site-specific programming support, and offers a range of school health resources to thousands more schools across the country.

About the Alliance for a Healthier Generation

The Alliance for a Healthier Generation empowers kids to develop lifelong healthy habits by ensuring the environments that surround them provide and promote good health. More than 25 million children have been helped by the Alliance’s work with schools, communities and businesses across the country. Make a difference at HealthierGeneration.org and join us on Facebook and Twitter.