Walk to School Meeting at LAUSD
June 3, 2011 1 Comment
By Manuel Zavala, Community Outreach Intern
School involvement will strengthen the effects of public health campaigns for youth
Yesterday’s “Walk To School 2011” informational meeting, presented by Los Angeles Unified School District and ultimately aimed at improving the health of our youth, turned out a variety of people ranging from health organizations to the public sector. Below are the highlights of the presentation:
It is a Public Issue
The biggest threat to children’s health is obesity. According to Rene Gonzalez, Assistant Superintendent of Student Health and Human Services at LAUSD, obesity is not just a private issue, it is an environmental and socio-political issue. Obesity is more abundant in certain areas — lack of availability of healthy food options and safe routes that encourage people to adopt unhealthy eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle are major contributing factors. Promoting healthier lifestyles relies on public policy change.
Prioritizing projects based on risks factors that are present in the community is one way to help change public policy.
Lan Nguyen of the LA Department of Transportation, spoke about SafeTREC‘s Transportation Injury Mapping System (TIMS) at yeaterday’s meeting. TIMS is a data tool that was recently launched to help influence public policy and planning by providing detailed maps of traffic collisions throughout the nation. The data collected in TIMS is crucial in influencing change in public policy. Simply put, targeting areas that are dangerous for pedestrian/bicyclists and creating the necessary changes to make walking and bicycling routes safer will encourage people to walk and bike.
What Roles do Schools Play?
Because children spend most of their day absorbing knowledge at school it is important to present a learning plan that not only covers writing, reading and arithmetic, but also educates them about physical activity and healthy eating habits. Principal Marta Jevenois and Nurse Gloria created a curriculum at Trinity Street Elementary School that emphasized the importance of being healthy by creating fun incentives to get students interested in their health — students receive rewards for being active and eating healthy. The school’s also holds educational assemblies and health fairs to educate both students and parents on how to adapt to healthier active lifestyles.
Making it Personal
Although creating seasonal campaigns will educate parents and children, to produce a lasting effect, campaigns must also engage their audience. Dr. Corrin Cross, of the American Academy of Pediatrics, emphasized the importance of creating a curriculum that extends into the household in order to change mentalities about walking to school and eating healthy, as well as culminate into a lifestyle change.
Sharing Benefits the Community
In low income areas where green spaces are not often available, opening up a school to the community can create accessibility for a recreational space and increase physical activity, said Mikaela Randolph, Assistant Policy Analyst at the LA County Department of Public Health.
School Nurses Care
Nurses, who routinely create and carry out programs designed to educate children on adopting healthy lifestyles, play an integral role in children’s health, said Yolanda Lasmarias, Nurse Program Manager at School Nurses Act to Prevent Obesity, and Dee Apodaca, Nursing Administrator at LAUSD during the meeting. The motto “Assess, educate, refer and motivate,” applies.
For more information on Walk to School 2011 (held on October 5th this year), visit the Safe Routes to School National Partnership web page, or to register yourself or your school, go directly to www.walktoschool.org/register.