Houston Independent School District Spotlight on Wellness

Students at basketball game

Students Share Their Visions of Wellness

Students are the primary audience for the Healthy Kids, Healthy Schools initiative and are most directly affected by the programs and projects the initiative undertakes. The Healthy Kids, Healthy Schools Steering Committee has worked to ensure that students have an active voice and role in prototype projects emerging from the initiative. Prior to the Summit, hundreds of HISD students shared their impressions, experiences and wishes about creating healthier schools through an online discussion board and in this video. More than two dozen attended the Summit and participated actively as equal partners in all sessions.

A very vocal request by students at the Summit was that HISD create a student version of the School Health Advisory Council (SHAC). They explained that such a body would help ensure that the voice of students is considered as HISD develops and implements its health and wellness policies. In response, Rose Haggerty, Healthy Kids, Healthy Schools Initiative Co-Chair and HISD Manager of Secondary Health and Physical Education, committed to take immediate action on the request, creating a student SHAC that will deal with the topics of food and nutrition, mental and emotional health, media and advertising, physical health, general well-being and curriculum development.

Students will play active roles in the Healthy Kids, Healthy Schools prototype projects launched by the Summit – from taste-testing new healthy food options to participating in personal, web-based wellness tracking, to helping to design a wellness communications campaign for HISD. In fact, student leaders from throughout the district worked together at the 2009 Summer Leadership Institute – where wellness was a key agenda topic for the very first time – to start building a student-led effort to market health to youth.

How Do You Market Health to Youth? Ask Students.

Research shows that there are many reasons why youth don’t make healthy eating and physical activity choices – but one of the most important is kids themselves. They don’t think about it, don’t care about it or aren’t motivated to do it. So how do you change that?

Student leaders from throughout Houston ISD worked together at the 2009 HISD Summer Leadership Institute on August 5 to tackle this challenge. Students became an “ad agency for the day” to start building a communications campaign to mobilize their peers – and the broader community – about healthy eating and physical activity. Marketing and health behavior change experts from across the country worked side-by-side with students to lead them through the creative process, which resulted in a range of creative youth-led outreach and promotion strategies and themes.

To get the word out and engage their peers, students want to create a robust social networking effort that they themselves can develop and manage as well as event-based activities, community outreach efforts and creative in-school promotional techniques.

A youth-led communications campaign is being developed as part of HISD’s Healthy Kids, Healthy Schools wellness initiative. Learn more at Prototype Projects.

Alicia Moag-Stahlberg, MS, RD, co-chair of Healthy Kids, Healthy Schools, organized the student working session and noted, “Students’ creative ideas and passion around health and wellness are contagious. Their commitment to creating healthier youth, schools and communities is one of the guiding forces of the Healthy Kids, Healthy Schools initiative.”