From Our Team
Posted on August 24, 2023 by Jana Renner
In today’s fast-paced world, our children’s health and well-being must remain a top priority. And schools play a significant role in child health. They deliver academic content in core subjects and provide knowledge, skills, and support to help children live healthy lives. One essential yet often overlooked entity in promoting the well-being of students is your school district’s School Health Advisory Council (SHAC). In an era when academic achievements often dominate discussions about educational excellence, SHACs provide a holistic approach that acknowledges the undeniable link between physical and mental well-being and academic success. These councils understand that healthy students are more attentive, engaged, and capable of realizing their full potential. By championing comprehensive health education, nutritious food options, and ample opportunities for physical activity, SHACs pave the way for improved academic performance. A crucial element that enhances the effectiveness of SHACs is robust parent engagement.
State law mandates that every school district in Texas have a SHAC. SHACs bring together a diverse group of stakeholders, including parents, educators, community members, and healthcare professionals, to provide guidance and recommendations to school districts on health education, physical education, nutrition services, and school health policies. The membership ensures that decisions concerning school health are well-informed, comprehensive, and aligned with the evolving needs and values of students and their families.
Parent engagement is the cornerstone of effective SHACs. Parents are stakeholders in their children’s education and are deeply interested in their health and well-being. Engaging parents in school health decision-making ensures that the perspectives of those most intimately involved in a child’s life are heard and considered. When parents are involved in shaping school health policies, the result is policies more attuned to the realities of students’ lives. For instance, parents can provide insights into dietary preferences, family schedules, and cultural considerations that may influence the success of nutrition programs. Accountability and transparency also increase when parents help to shape policies that foster trust between the school district and the community.
The positive impacts of well-structured SHACs extend to students. By fostering a comprehensive approach to health and wellness, SHACs contribute to the holistic development of students, preparing them for academic success and a lifetime of healthy choices. Access to quality health education, physical activity opportunities, and nutritious meals equip students with the knowledge and skills they need to lead active, healthy lives. By promoting healthy lifestyles, SHACs also contribute to academic success and reduced absenteeism. Healthy children come to school ready to learn and miss less school due to illness.
The school year has just begun, so now is the time to join your district SHAC. Meetings vary by school district but meet at least four times yearly, and many meet monthly. Meeting schedules, agendas, and minutes from previous meetings can be found on your school district’s website. As SHAC members ourselves, we attest to the value of SHAC membership. We have had input on school district policies that have directly impacted our children. We have voted for new health textbooks and recommended more robust recess policies to ensure that our children have time for free play during the day. Our work as SHAC members has been important not just for our children but for all children. Please, consider playing a pivotal role in child health and attend a SHAC meeting!
For more information about SHACs, visit the Texas SHAC Network at https://www.txshacnetwork.com/home and contact your school district about how to get involved with your district SHAC.
Jana Renner, Senior Program Officer for the Paso del Norte Health Foundation – firstname.lastname@example.org or 915-218-2616
Michelle Smith, Senior Field Manager, Action for Healthy Kids
Leah Whigham, Director and Associate Professor, UTHealth Houston Center for Community Impact in El Paso
PDNHF Priority Area: Healthy Living
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