Overall health is very important to many parents. Most want what’s best for their child, and it all starts with health! Many schools already have health fairs or wellness nights as part of their outreach to families, but if you are a parent interested in increasing healthy habits and awareness at your school, how do you start?
Find out who is in charge. There is usually one person at the school in charge of the health and wellness activities. While it is different in every school, try checking with the physical education teacher, guidance office, science or health teacher, school health advisory committee, building principal, school nurse, or even the PTO. Take the time to find out who it is and what they might currently have planned. If there isn’t already something established, try one of the suggestions below to help get things started.
Find out what they need help with. If there is an established well-working group, it is best to start by familiarizing yourself with how it works, what the goals are, and who does what. Many times there’s plenty of work to be done, and planners are happy to have additional help.
Look for ways to add to the program. Keeping the theme and goals in mind, think about who you know in the community that cares about health. Do research about community health resources. Think about government agencies, hospitals, doctors or dentists offices, pharmacies, health plans, religious organizations, restaurants, colleges/universities, fitness centers/YMCA’s, voluntary organizations such as American Heart Association or the American Cancer Society, etc. Contact them to see how they might be able to add to and fit within events, promoting health benefits to the families as well as their organization.
Add as many hands-on activities as possible. The most successful booths/activities are often those with things to look at or do. While giving out information is great, when people are having fun they remember it fondly, and are more likely to want to make those wellness changes.
Commit and do what you've committed to. One of the most important aspects is to make sure you are able to do everything you said you would. Do not over-commit. Do not under-perform. The more you show you can handle things, the more your voice will be heard.
And finally, have fun and go in with a positive attitude. You can make a difference and can be a great partner in helping kids and their families choose healthy habits!
Elizabeth Shephard, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences