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Staff benefit from school wellness efforts in South Carolina

Bamberg_HSThe Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program 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 School Health Coordinator for the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SC DHEC), an Alliance intermediary partner, Erica Ayers provides professional development and support to help schools across the state create and sustain healthier environments for their students. To support this effort, SC DHEC regional staff met with wellness leads from schools in two South Carolina school districts and introduced them to the Alliance’s Healthy Schools Program by helping them enroll and complete the Assessment tool. School partners could then use the Assessment results to prioritize items they wanted to work on throughout the school year.

A focus on staff to create a healthy climate for students
One school partner, Bamberg-Ehrhardt High School, is making great progress by choosing to start a new staff wellness initiative. After completing the Assessment, Wanda Grimes, the Wellness Lead at Bamberg-Ehrhardt, focused on improving the overall well-being of staff who can then model healthy behaviors for their students. The school launched a “BMI Busters” program in the 2014-15 school year in order to “provide opportunities to all faculty and staff members and students to gain knowledge and obtain skills that will foster a healthy lifestyle and create a positive and healthy climate.”

BMI Busters is an 8-week program that ran from January to March 2015, and 21 staff members participated, including the school principal. Staff participation well exceeded the school wellness goal to have “35% of the school staff participate in a fitness, healthy eating, and weight management program.” Grimes and her wellness team promoted the program by posting flyers around the school and in the staff room and sharing information at staff meetings. Participants received a Wellness Folder that included a weigh-in sheet, rules for the BMI Busters Challenge, BMI chart, healthy tips and other wellness resources. Participants received weekly tips and recipes by email, in their personal boxes, and at weigh-ins.  At the end of the 8-week challenge, the winner who lost the largest percentage of weight lost close to 20 pounds!

After the BMI Busters Challenge, Grimes feels that her colleagues are more aware of how active they are, and that has been reflected in how they teach. “Now, when the gym is open, teachers will take their students to move around, or take their students for a walking break when the weather is nice,” notes Ayers. Grimes and the Bamberg-Ehrhardt school wellness team plan to implement the challenge next year. They plan to make students more aware of it by spotlighting winners on the school bulletin board, along with healthy tips for teachers and students. The wellness team also hopes to update the school wellness policy next school year to make their staff wellness programs more sustainable.

A new school staff wellness page features Alliance resources
As an Alliance intermediary partner, SC DHEC was able to support Bamberg-Ehrhardt’s efforts by providing the school with additional regional and local resources. “We were able to share staff wellness resources from content advisors at the Alliance with our school partners, and they really enjoy Michelle Owens’ monthly tips and newsletters,” says Ayers. “Bamberg-Ehrhardt has even created a staff wellness page on their school website and are using the resources from the Alliance to populate their webpage.”
Overall, Ayers feels that “the Alliance resources and webinars have been very beneficial for me to support schools. They were really great opportunities for my school partners to learn about the resources that the Alliance has to offer, from physical activity promotion to staff wellness opportunities.”

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