By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News
Kentucky has a new, statewide coalition to work on improving children’s health in school settings.
It was established by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, in partnership with Kentucky Voices for Health and Cairn Guidance, an education and school-health consulting company.
The coalition will work to promote policies, programs and practices that are shown to make measurable differences in children’s health, Foundation President and CEO Ben Chandler told more than 100 people at the coalition’s foundational meeting in Lexington Sept. 10.
“Children and youth spend a large portion of their lives in schools during the ages when there are critical and rapid changes to their brains and their bodies,” Chandler said. “That makes school a key setting in which both health and education outcomes can be achieved.”
Chandler added, “Schools also offer a setting to address health and education inequities, and to offer children and youth the opportunity to foster their strengths, their resiliency and certainly their potential.Therefore, policy advocacy focusing on children’s health in a school setting can bring about important changes to both health and education.”
Kentucky ranks 34th in the overall well-being of its children in the latest Kids Count Data Book, which uses 16 measurements. Nearly one in four Kentuckians are children.
After the keynote speaker, Jamie Sparks,executive director of the Kentucky Association for Health, Physical, Education, Recreation & Dance, gave a synopsis of the history of education, the bulk of the day was spent in break-out sessions where participants worked to develop a vision for the coalition and to identify its strengths, problems, opportunities and threats.
Recurring themes from the break-out sessions were: the importance of communication; the importance of including a youth voice; the need for shared goals; issues of funding and sustainability; the need to create measurable goals; the importance of data collection; and the importance of minimizing duplication by working with other coalitions that focus on children’s health.
|State Rep. Kim Moser|
State Rep. Kimberly Moser, chair of the state House Health and Family Services Committee, wrapped up the day-long meeting, speaking about a number of laws that affect children — including the recently passed School Safety and Resiliency Act, which among other things calls for more school-based mental health providers, and the tobacco-free schools bill, which she sponsored. Moser said she plans to again file a bill to increase physical education requirements in schools.
“My hope is this diverse coalition will be able to find common policy goals and build the support needed to adopt them,” Moser said in the news release.
Emily Beauregard, executive director of KVH, spoke about the power of working together in a coalition, which she said will afford them the ability to make bold policy changes to improve the health of the state’s children.
“I also think this is an opportunity for us to reduce disparities,” she said. “By having a statewide coalition [and] bringing everyone together around the table, we can really start to look at where the disparities lie and what we can be doing together to reduce those disparities and bring more equity to the lives of kids in Kentucky.”
After the meeting, Amalia Mendoza, lead staff from the foundation to the new coalition, said one of the goals of the coalition is to raise awareness about the importance of children’s health in Kentucky and the importance of approaching it holistically.
We want to “reinforce local coalitions while at the same time move forward with policies, practices and programs at the state level,” Mendoza said. “We have so many chronic disease problems that we forget that if we really want to stop them down the road and stop them from magnifying, we have to start working with kids more. . . . as young as possible and as early as possible.”
For more information about the coalition, contact Mendoza at email@example.com or call (502) 326-2583.