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Tackling the Challenge of Trauma and Stress in Schools

Kaiser Permanente, Alliance for a Healthier Generation, and Discovery Education partner to deliver Resilience in School Environments initiative.

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Kaiser Permanente is partnering with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and Discovery Education to address trauma and stress and promote social and emotional wellness at 25,000 schools nationwide. The Resilience in School Environments, or RISE, initiative will provide teachers with the skills and resources they need to support student mental health and to better tend to their own emotional needs.

RISE will be offered through a variety of virtual and in-person resources. On-site and virtual programming will be delivered in partnership with Healthier Generation, a leader in empowering children to develop lifelong healthy habits by ensuring the environments that surround them provide and promote good health.

In Southern California, 38 schools representing 2 school districts are currently working with RISE. Six schools in the Alvord Unified School District in Riverside County are receiving in-person support, which includes professional development and customized technical assistance, among other resources.

The schools in the Alvord Unified School District receiving in-person support include Arlanza Elementary, Promenade Elementary, Rosemary Kennedy Elementary, Twinhill Elementary, Valley View Elementary, and La Sierra High School. 

Traci Vaughan, principal of Valley View Elementary School, recognized the value of RISE for her school, where teachers and staff work with their students and the community to create a culture of wellness. In 2018, Valley View was one of 19 Kaiser Permanente Thriving Schools in Southern California, and 1 of 4 schools districtwide, named among Healthier Generation’s America’s Healthiest Schools.

“We’re thrilled to be participating in the RISE initiative, as it adds the much-needed social-emotional components to our current health awareness efforts,” Vaughan said. “Thanks to the support of Healthier Generation and Kaiser Permanente, RISE will not only benefit our students but the staff, too!”

A 2019 survey from the Pew Research Center found that 70% of teens say anxiety and depression is a “major problem” among their peers. And according to Gallup’s State of America’s Schools Report, nearly half of K-12 teachers report high daily stress during the school year, matching levels reported by nurses, physicians, and others from other highly demanding professions. 

RISE will address these issues by providing a comprehensive set of resources, at no cost, for school staff, teachers and districts to address some of the underlying factors of stress in schools and develop strategies and practices that foster more positive school environments.

“Positive role models such as teachers can have a lasting positive impact on a child’s development, health, and well-being,” said Kaiser Permanente Chairman and CEO Gregory A. Adams. “We are proud to work with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and Discovery Education to cultivate school environments that will help millions of students, teachers, and staff in our communities across America to instill greater resiliency and truly thrive.”

The RISE initiative builds on Kaiser Permanente/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention research findings that those with 4 or more adverse childhood experiences are 12 times more likely to attempt suicide, and those with 6 or more have a 20-year shorter life expectancy.

Through the partnership with Healthier Generation and Discovery Education, Kaiser Permanente is launching resources that will allow RISE to expand quickly across the U.S. By the year 2023, the initiative will reach at least 25,000 schools to cultivate the practices that improve safe and supportive learning environments with a unique focus on school employee health and wellness. The initiative, part of Kaiser Permanente’s Thriving Schools, includes a focus on addressing adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, defined as traumatic events that occur before age 18.

School and district engagement with RISE are guided by the RISE Index, an evidence-informed, digital tool that helps them assess, prioritize, and plan key activities that promote the social and emotional health of staff and students. The index provides best practices and guides schools and districts in making meaningful policy and practice changes on their campuses.

“Since 2013, Kaiser Permanente has been our valued partner in helping thousands of schools nationwide improve students’ health and learning,” said Kathy Higgins, chief executive officer of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. “This expansion of our work through RISE will further empower schools to create environments that support the whole child — meeting their physical, social, and emotional needs.”

“Social and emotional wellness is of paramount importance in educators’ efforts to maximize learning and prepare students for successful futures,” said Lori McFarling, Discovery Education's president of corporate partnerships. "We are proud to partner with Kaiser Permanente in their efforts to empower educators with dynamic digital resources to support their critical work to foster social and emotional learning resiliency both inside and outside the classroom."

The RISE expansion comes amid growing understanding of the long-term health effects of trauma and stress. Kaiser Permanente was one of the first organizations to recognize the link between trauma and health through the landmark ACEs study it conducted with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study, released in 1998, illuminated the connection between childhood trauma and stress with health and well-being later in life. Last month, Kaiser Permanente announced that it will allocate $2.75 million in new research led by Kaiser Permanente research scientists to help prevent and mitigate the health effects of ACEs.