Providing a Safe Environment for Children at School

This week is National Public Health Week, an annual celebration of public health sponsored by the American Public Health Association (APHA). Today’s theme is “Providing a Safe Environment for Children at School”. Children spend 180 days in school every year. The lessons and habits children gain during this time influence the rest of their lives. Our nation’s children develop eating habits through the National School Lunch program, which feeds more than 31 million children each day. Many children rely on this and the National School Breakfast Program for daily nutrition. With today’s incredibly high prevalence of childhood obesity, it is important for schools to provide healthy choices. According to the National Public Health Week’s website, about 17%, or 12 million of today’s children and teens aged 2 to 19 are obese. This is a serious health threat that must be addressed through healthier meals in the National School Lunch and Breakfast Program.

Another important aspect of healthy school environments is tobacco control. Tobacco use has dramatically decreased over the decades, and most K-12 schools are now tobacco-free zones. Students at UNH have recently been advocating for a tobacco-free campus, with an online petition collecting signatures of supporters. Health Services hosted an event for National Kick Butts Day on March 20th, providing students with resources to quit their smoking habits. UNH is moving toward becoming healthier every day, on our way to reaching our goal of becoming the healthiest campus in the nation by 2020. When looking to create healthier environments, many researchers compare today’s struggles with “Big Food” to past decades’ crusades against “Big Tobacco”. The parallels between advertising campaigns and distribution control are quite remarkable. Read more in this research article by Kelly Brownell and Kenneth Warner of Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.

Celebrate National Public Health Week and work to improve and recognize safe school environments in your community.