Houston Independent School District Spotlight on Wellness

Overweight kids to adults graphic

A New Approach to an Urgent Health Issue

There are few, if any, more urgent health needs than the current epidemic of overweight and obesity among children, which stems from poor nutrition and too little physical activity. Schools have an important role to play in helping kids eat better and move more. Yet, schools are the first to say they can't do this alone. They want and need involvement, support and resources from their communities.

There is no shortage of community partners ready to step in with a grant here and a program there. Schools find themselves inundated by initiatives that, while positive, can compete for attention and address only part of the puzzle. Add in a long list of federal, state and district policies around health and nutrition, lack of adequate funding for change, and a diverse student, parent and staff community and the result often is a hodgepodge of partial solutions, partially implemented.

Effective change requires a new approach, and it's pioneered in Houston. The National Dairy Council and Dairy MAX, in full partnership with the Houston Independent School district and other public and private partners (see sidebar), are bringing a breakthrough approach to change already proven in the business world into the school environment.

This approach, known as Appreciative Inquiry (AI), brings together everyone with a stake in the issue. They create a collective vision for the future and solutions that build on what works, rather than focusing on what doesn't work. By building on common ground and taking a positive, collaborative approach, AI has proven especially effective in breaking down historic barriers to change. This is the first time that AI has been used to improve public health in schools.

Houston Healthy Kids, Healthy Schools is designed to serve as a national model for improving health and wellness in a large urban school district.

What they say...

"There's no shortage of knowledge on what to do to have healthier kids. The challenge is implementing it. The strength of this initiative is the collaboration between education experts, medical experts, PTAs, business leaders coming together and saying, hey, we're going to work together."
Jonathan Lack, Executive Director, Houston Wellness Association

Download the HKHS Workbook