January 19, 2018

Turning Alliance Tools and Resources into Healthier Wisconsin Schools

Through our Healthy Schools Program, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation offers an evidence-based approach that guides schools to create, implement, and sustain healthy environments. The Alliance helps build healthier schools by enlisting the help of regional and local partners. Intermediary partner staff gain access to the Alliance’s customized professional development training, tools, resources and data that empower them to guide schools to improve physical activity and nutrition policies and practices. The services provided by the Alliance complement their local and regional efforts, creating a powerful partnership to transform communities into healthier places for kids.

Michelle Moreau, the Community Outreach Specialist for the Wisconsin Comprehensive Cancer Control Program (WCCCP), leads a partnership with Melissa McDonald and the Alliance to implement WCCCP’s School Learning Collaborative Project. The School Learning Collaborative Project focuses on implementing policy and environmental changes that helps students and staff at schools adopt healthy behaviors to promote chronic disease prevention and decrease risk. In the first year of the project, WCCCP identified five school districts based on free and reduced lunch (FRL) and overweight and obesity rates and selected the Alliance’s Healthy Schools Program Assessment tool for schools to evaluate their health and wellness environment.


New requirements for the Wisconsin School Health Award

The following school year, WCCCP partnered with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (WIDPI), which administers the Wisconsin School Health Award, to expand the program to a more regional model. Schools were required to complete the Healthy Schools Program assessment to earn a School Health Award from the WIDPI. Eileen Hare, Health and Physical Education Consultant for Coordinated School Health with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, administers the Wisconsin School Health Award. Hare enjoys using the assessment to create a statewide standard for School Health Award criteria, as well as to find gaps and regional disparities between schools throughout the state. “Because it is linked to the Let’s Move! Active Schools program and the School Health Index, we can also use the Assessment to compare our state to the national model,” she adds. “I think the impact has been tremendously positive,” says Moreau. “I appreciate that the Assessment tool gives schools data for a starting point.”

After completing a train-the-trainer workshop with the Alliance, WCCCP presented two wellness workshops during the 2014-15 school year to train school partners on how to use the Assessment tool. “We did a 101 track for beginners and a 201 track for schools who had completed the tool and wanted to take implementation to the next level, as well as an administrator track,” Moreau explains. “Schools like that the tool gives them a starting point to be able to measure their progress and identify a couple of areas in which to focus their efforts.” WCCCP expects that schools complete the tool and make one type of policy change during the school year. Many schools have taken on the task of updating their school wellness policies and have enjoyed using the Alliance’s model school wellness policy as a template.


Enhanced support through a regional focus

WCCCP also expanded their School Learning Collaborative Project to a regional model during the 2014-15 school year through the Cooperative Education Service Agency (CESA), which groups together school districts around the state in order to more effectively share resources. “At the beginning of the school year, the wellness workshop was a great way to introduce the Assessment tool to people, and attendees really appreciated the opportunity to network with their peers from around the state,” says Moreau. Working with CESA has also allowed WCCCP to appeal directly to district superintendents to sign up for the project. “Starting off right away with buy-in from the top leaders in the district has allowed our school partners to do great work in a relatively short amount of time,” Moreau adds. “Setting up the project regionally has also made it easier to implement because our regional coordinator is able to visit more schools and attend their district wellness committee meetings to provide support.”

Collaboration and input at the regional and state levels have allowed the WCCCP to achieve great success with their School Learning Collaborative Project. Eileen Hare notes, “Districts have been making very unique policy changes, from active recess and activity before school to healthy birthday celebrations. It’s all about creating that environment for healthy behaviors now and down the road, and the Alliance has given us a great framework to build our project around.”

Want to learn more about how organizations can work together with the Alliance to make our communities healthier places? Visit our website at http://www.healthiergeneration.org/ or email help@healthiergeneration.org.