For the first time in our country’s history, our current generation of elementary students is expected to have a shorter life span than that of their parents. This prediction is based on the fact that childhood obesity is at unprecedented levels nationwide. Tennessee has the third highest rate of pediatric obesity in the United States. Since health habits learned during the formative years are crucial to preventing negative health outcomes later in life, early intervention among school-aged youth is necessary and essential to reducing these alarming trends.
In 2006, Public Chapter 1001, the Coordinated School Health Expansion and Physical Activity Law, established authority and funding ($15 million) to expand CSH statewide. In June of 2007, Cannon County received $85,000 from the State of Tennessee to implement the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) Coordinated School Health (CSH) 8 Component Model. The Cannon County Office of CSH receives no local money and has continued to be fully funded by the State of Tennessee.
As part of Cannon County Board of Education’s agreement with the State of Tennessee, Cannon County is required to conduct health screenings for students in grades K, 2, 4, 6, 8 and one grade in high school. For decades Tennessee school systems have been required to screen vision and hearing. With the adoption of Coordination School Health state-wide, body mass index (BMI) and blood pressure are also required with dental and scoliosis screenings encouraged. Body Mass Index (BMI) is a number calculated from a child’s weight and height and is an easy, noninvasive method of screening for weight categories that may lead to health problems.
In October and November of 2009, the Cannon County office of CSH conducted its annual health screenings. In addition to acquiring all required measurements, Cannon County was fortunate this year to obtain the voluntary services of a registered dental hygienist who conducted dental screenings. Prior to each school’s screening date, screening notifications were sent home to parents with students in grades K, 2, 4, 6, 8 and 9. This notification gave parents and students the opportunity to decline participation in the screening process by signing and returning the notification to the child’s school. During the screening process our students’ dignity and privacy were respected, and results remained confidential. State and local offices of CSH look at school-wide or district-wide results only, not individual student information, as they evaluate health initiatives. The Cannon County office of CSH mailed referral letters to parents of students identified with a possible concern during the screening process. Since this process is a screening only, CSH suggested that parents discuss any concerns noted with their child’s doctor at their next visit.
In addition to early identification of health concerns through the screening process, additional steps have been taken to address the reduced longevity projection and obesity rates of our students, such as
Food Service has increased fresh fruit, whole grains, and salad offerings at all schools.
Horticulture students at Cannon County High School grow lettuce and supply their cafeteria with four varieties that are served to students and staff members.
All schools provide the recommended 90 minutes of physical activity and/or physical education per week.
Middle Tennessee State University and TNCEP along with other partners teach students nutrition and physical activity lessons in all elementary schools.
The Cannon County School Board recently passed board policy which forbids the sale of non-nutritive food to students during school hours, bans energy drinks/mints/products in all Cannon County Schools, and limits class or club food parties to four per year.
While there is much to celebrate in Cannon County Schools, there is much work to be done in our efforts to build healthier futures for Cannon County students.
Parents with concerns regarding Coordinated School Health or parents willing to serve on a CSH Parent Advisory Council are urged to contact Connie Foster, Director of Coordinated School Health, at email@example.com or 615-563-5752 x 245.