Healthcare Partner Leads the Way for School Health in Western Kentucky
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.
As the Director of the Kentucky Delta Rural Project at Baptist Health of Madisonville, Kelcey Rutledge oversees Project Specialists who promote school health and wellness in 17 school districts dispersed over a service area of 6,790 square miles in Western Kentucky. Baptist Health, the largest healthcare provider in Kentucky, receives funding from the federal Office of Rural Health Policy to implement wellness initiatives at over 85 schools. Rutledge and Baptist Health have also worked as an intermediary partner of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program since November 2013, receiving both in-person and virtual trainings from the Alliance to enhance their ability to help schools build healthier environments.
Engaging schools to make a commitment to health
Kentucky Delta Rural Project staff work to secure support from district superintendents and school principals. Four Project Specialists are each assigned five counties and use approaches learned from their Alliance training to help administrators organize school wellness committees. They encourage those school wellness committees to have at least five members‒ideally different stakeholders within the school community‒and help the school wellness committees use the Alliance’s online Assessment tool to identify goals that align with their school wellness policies. Kentucky Delta Rural Project Specialists visit each school in person at least once per month to work directly with School Wellness Committee Coordinators–typically a physical education teacher, family resource coordinator, school nurse, or occasionally a principal–to support their concrete wellness promotion plans. The Alliance Assessment tool also correlates with the Kentucky School Program Review, which allows schools to streamline their process. Rutledge notes that having district superintendents sign nonbinding memorandums of understanding about what to expect from the partnership after operating in their schools since 2005 has been a wonderful way “to reintroduce ourselves and our renewed focus.”
Small steps toward healthier schools
Baptist Health also assists 85 schools in 20 counties to create or update individualized wellness policies. These policies highlight the use of Take 10! ®, a program designed to integrate grade-specific academic learning objectives with age-appropriate physical activity in the form of ten-minute physical activity breaks in the classroom, as well as various wellness promotion events and opportunities for staff wellness. Past wellness promotion events have included Kentucky Delta tours for fourth graders, community wellness nights and health care assemblies. Through this process, Baptist Health staff have learned to approach school staff with useful resources and additional manpower in the form of Project Specialists so that school staff will feel supported and more committed to the overall goal of promoting health and wellness in their school community. In Rutledge’s words, “We are responsible for our own health, and we can do a lot to live healthy lives by taking small steps.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.