Thursday, 28 March 2013 10:18

Children being schooled in healthy living

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School officials are teaming up with staff from Alberta Health Services with a goal of improving the health of school children through the Comprehensive School Health Approach.

Not a new concept as it has been in schools for a few years, how health initiatives are implemented can be quite varied depending on the school.
In Canada it’s also known as the Health Promoting Schools Approach. It’s about improving health and educational outcomes.
Jill Lambden, health promotion co-ordinator with Alberta Health Services (AHS), based in Lethbridge, along with her colleagues, help support administrators and lead teachers in southwest Alberta.
“There are a variety of healthy initiatives,” says Lambden. “Some schools are focusing a lot on a positive social environment, mental wellness, bullying campaigns and making sure families are well represented. Other schools are focusing on physical activities, improving playgrounds or making classrooms more active.”
AHS officials have even done some work instructing teachers how to incorporate movement into their lessons.
There are four main pillars to the approach: teaching and learning (what happens in the classroom); partnerships and services (such as the police service or public health nurses making presentations); policy (nutrition policies or ensuring daily physician activity is in place) and social and physical environments (air quality, the physical building and playground equipment.)
Lethbridge’s school districts have done a lot of work on a district level with the superintendents making it a priority to become a healthier district and have created a healthier nutritional choices policy.
Each school in that district has a health champion. One person who is responsible for starting the conversation about how to make schools healthier.
“We’re really proud of Lethbridge School District 51 and the priority that’s been given to health,” adds Lambden. “They understand healthier students learn better.”
School district staff are also encouraged to live healthier lives through the Workplace Health Incentive Program.
“Healthy teachers are better teachers and better role models,” points out Lambden.
Cardston Elementary School has had an active healthy initiative for about five years. It now includes a resource website at: Divided into the three pillars of healthy eating, active living and positive social environment, there are also sections on student leadership, health partnerships, student feedback and resources.
In January, AHS held a “Snap your Snack” contest where students could take photos of the healthy foods they are eating. It was well received by Cardston students says Annette Bright, Healthy Schools, Healthy Future lead teacher. 
The Cardston elementary students also take part in the annual Healthy Active School Symposium which was held
Feb. 5 in Lethbridge. AHS healthy eating posters line the hallways and there are lesson plans on active living available for teachers’ use that are aligned with the program of studies outcomes.
The students also enjoy Fruit Fridays, Tasting Tuesdays and Smoothies at the Tiki Hut once a month. Tasting Tuesdays offer a chance for students to try a vegetable they haven’t before such as jicama. They then will head home to tell their parents what they learned and those conversations can extend into the grocery stores.
“We want it to translate into the home and we can see that starting to happen,” says Bright.
She credits AHS for the success Cardston Elementary School is having with its healthy initiatives, including work done by Lambden, Margaret Bannman, Norah Fines and Lyndsay Robinson — the Healthy Weights initiative team. There are also numerous partnerships that help make it successful including with service clubs, 1st Choice Savings and parent and student councils.
“What I’m noticing is that there are pockets of Comprehensive School Health (CSH) in our schools, but we still have a ways to go,” adds Bright. “Clearly, CSH doesn’t happen overnight. For it to be embedded into the culture of a school, it must be purposeful and well laid out.”
Lambden says she and her colleagues can help any school looking to move forward with healthy initiatives.
A new resource for educators and even parents and community members was launched earlier this year.
The Comprehensive School Health website is an online repository of tools to support school health promotion (
It includes information as to how to build healthy school communities, healthy school policy, links to AHS webpages with curriculum-linked lesson plans and resources and links to additional websites offering resources.
“Some school districts have amazing health initiatives happening but they don’t realize it falls under the Comprehensive School Health Approach,” adds Lambden.
She is proud the government has continued to fund a healthy weights initiative underway in southwest Alberta since 2007.
Her role is to help facilitate healthy initiatives in schools and Lambden is more than happy to do so.
“We can help connect (schools) with appropriate resources if they need them or can share our resources or connect schools with each other. Ultimately we want healthy grownups. We need to teach kids the healthy habits they need when they grow up. What they become accustomed to now, is what they will do when they are older.”
School officials looking for assistance from AHS can email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to be put in touch with a health promotions co-ordinator.

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Rose Sanchez

Assistant Managing Editor

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