BPS adds fitness and health programs to take on childhood obesity
The Boston Public Schools (BPS) today announced Healthy Connections, a strategic plan to advance student health and wellness. The plan begins the implementation of an approach to coordinated school health, which aims to both improve student health and academic performance with the help of $4.6 million in funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Department of Education. In partnership with Boston Public Health Commission, BPS is aiming to enhance efforts to improve student fitness, healthy behaviors, and school-based health care services. These core goals align with the BPS Acceleration Agenda, the five-year plan to improve every Boston public school.
Working with Wheelock College, BPS has just completed a sweeping survey of the state of student health in Boston. The results show that on average, 40% of BPS students across grades and sex are at an unhealthy weight and 82% of high school students report not eating the recommended daily amount of fruits and vegetables. The Healthy Connections plan includes immediate steps to improve student health. Beginning this fall, BPS will:
- Increase the number of physical education teachers by 10%
- Conduct fitness assessments for students in 4th through 9th grades
- Integrate physical activity across the school day through activity promotions, cross-curricular lessons, movement breaks, and recess
- Incorporate tobacco policy and prevention strategies into BPS Wellness Councils and Wellness Policies through student engagement and professional development
“Preparing children for academic and life success is among our city’s most important responsibilities and the core responsibility of the Boston Public Schools,” said Superintendent Carol R. Johnson. “More than anything, this means that children are in good health, eating healthy, staying physically fit and emotionally well.”
This school year, Superintendent Johnson created the BPS Health and Wellness Department, led by Executive Director Jill Carter. The department is working to rapidly increase physical fitness, nutrition and health education in every school. Under Carter’s leadership, BPS now provides physical education at 17 schools that previously did not offer any; is conducting a student physical fitness assessment in 57 schools; and trained 75 Wellness Champions to increase physical activity in 46 schools.
The Health and Wellness Department worked with the Aspire Institute at Wheelock College to develop the Healthy Connections strategic plan. “We were pleased to work with BPS to elevate the importance of student health and wellness,” said Jake Murray, senior director of the Aspire Institute. “From the Superintendent on down, there is a clear, strong commitment to better coordinate health and wellness services and improve the quality of these services.”