School Health in Kentucky… and what I’m familiar with

So, I’ve been fortunate enough to have been a part of the school health ‘glory days’ at the Oregon Department of Education (DOE) when we were funded for Coordinated School Health, HIV Prevention and Asthma Friendly Schools. And, sadly, I was part of the destruction of it by leadership, one key sabotager who has since been ‘let go’. I am grateful for the Oregon Health Authority, our Department of Public Health, Adolescent Health Department that actually has sustained our School Health Coordinator. Isabelle has done a fantastic job as a school health advocate in our public health division when our DOE didn’t step up. Two key people at the DOE who have sustained support and encouraged on-going partnerships are Brad (retired, but formerly the HIV Coordinator) and Joyce (School Nutrition Director). Now, with new leadership at the Oregon DOE, there seems to be a bit more momentum these days (YAH!). And, the Healthy Kids Learn Better Coalition, consisting of over 35 non-profit organizations that meets monthly and continues to advocate for school health has done an incredibly job even with the lack of support by DOE. I challenge Oregon DOE to do more linking health and academics... and I know they are working on it.

Today, I was invited by the KY DOE to attend their quarterly Kentucky State Board Health Committee meeting since I’m in town. I was envious of the Coordinated School Health Team’s access to Board of Education members. I remember the days when NASBE supported our work through training events helping us initially work with our Oregon State Board of Education. For years, we met monthly with two board members to discuss school health efforts and opportunities. Then, we were re-organized into another office with leadership who didn’t want us having direct access to the State Board of Education. So, the meetings ended.

What a breathe of fresh air to be in a meeting today with such key people… DOE’s Policy Advisor, Deputy Commissioner of Clinical Affairs from Department of Public Health (DPH) as well as nutrition services within DOE, a local middle school principal, Foundation for a Healthy KY and KY Youth Advocates.  And of course, the Coordinated School Health Team from DOE and DPH. Today’s presentation was related to what Mississippi has done in schools related to childhood obesity in comparison with what Kentucky has done. Fascinating way to present the information and since I'm familiar with even more states’ work, it’s always interesting to hear what other states are doing. It’s not about competing with other states, but rather how can each state learn from the successes of others’ and continue to build upon their own state programs. Kudos to Kentucky! No state is perfect, we all have work to do… but it was wonderful to be in a place where school health is valued and key leaders want this work to be linked with academic success and accountability systems… through key partnerships.