Houston Independent School District Spotlight on Wellness

Child playing basketball

Summit Inspires Collaboration and Innovation

To create a new national model for addressing the challenges of childhood obesity and overweight, the National Dairy Council and Dairy MAX, in the fall unveiled the Healthy Kids, Healthy Schools initiative, a unique private-public partnership with the Houston Independent School District (HISD). The strategy is an innovative one – bringing together the “whole system” of players who currently are contributing or possibly could contribute to the wellness climate at HISD.

A Healthy Kids, Healthy Schools Steering Committee and National Advisory Board were recruited to assist in planning the initiative. They began by identifying the key leverage points that could be activated to help create “whole system” change. In fact, these leverage points served as the conceptual framework for organizing the Healthy Kids, Healthy Schools Summit working teams (see sidebar). This framework could serve as a model for any school district looking to revamp its wellness environment.

The launching pad for this new initiative was the Healthy Kids, Healthy Schools Summit. Conducted in Houston during February, the event attracted a capacity crowd of educators, health professionals, students, parents, business and community leaders and government officials. The purpose was to create innovative approaches to improve nutrition and physical activity at HISD.

Facilitated by Dr. David Cooperrider of Case Western Reserve University, Summit participants used the Appreciative Inquiry method of positive organizational change, which has been used successfully by corporations, governmental and non-profit organizations. This Summit marked the first time the Appreciative Inquiry method was used in a large, urban school district. Participants reflected the “whole system” of HISD and Houston community stakeholders, and worked collaboratively to address a range of objectives.

The Summit began with a series of interactive “inquiries” among attendees, designed to identify HISD’s strengths, resources and capabilities. From there, numerous project teams emerged during the Summit and began brainstorming and designing new initiatives aimed at improving wellness at HISD. Projects ranging from a “Healthy Schools” student-led communications campaign, to expanded business and community partnerships, a new Healthy Kids, Healthy Schools foundation, a “Fresh Café” approach to school food service, a Student School Health Advisory Council, a “Healthy Role Models” program, to a web-based personalized student and staff wellness initiative, were just some of the ideas born. The Summit generated a number of “quick wins” for HISD as well as the inspiring a number of robust Prototype Projects launching in the Fall.

The Summit was underwritten by National Dairy Council and Dairy MAX in partnership by HISD and supported by the Houston Texans, Greater Houston Partnership, Steps for a Healthier Houston-Harris County Consortium, Houston Wellness Association, Houston Can Do! and many other local organizations. Visit Public-Private Partnership to learn more about the role these organizations are playing in creating a healthier Houston.

What they say...

"Healthy Kids, Healthy Schools will help us build on the many initiatives already under way and strengthen community support for wellness in HISD and beyond."
Mayor Bill White, City of Houston

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