Blue Promise: How Can We Enable Wellness in Public School Systems?

MUSIC DAN: Every weekday morning more than 5
million students walk through the doors of a school. They’re learning important topics. But how
much do they know about their own health? In this episode of Blue Promise
we’ll discuss empowering school systems to educate students
and faculty on health and wellness. APPLAUSE MUSIC DAN: Thanks for tuning into
Blue Promise. I’m Dr. Dan McCoy and I’m the president of
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas we’re in Austin Texas today filming in our
office beside The State Capitol building the and for first time we’ve got a live audience
present. They’re here as participants in the Texas Tribune Festival. And joining
me onstage is Amy McGeady. Amy is CEO of It’s Time Texas
and thanks for being here. AMY: Well thanks for having me. DAN: OK. So what is It’s Time Texas? AMY: It’s Time Texas is a
nonprofit organization based in Austin. We’re a statewide organization
in Texas and we’re trying to ignite a social movement around
health in Texas and build a culture. DAN: But this isn’t new, right?
It’s Time Texas been around a long time? AMY: No we’re having
our fifth birthday in November. DAN: Wow. So tell me a little bit
about your relationship with local school districts. AMY: OK. We work with school health
advisory councils. I don’t know if you know this but in Texas every school district is
mandated to have a school health advisory council to get parents and teachers and
administrators talking about student health. So It’s Time Texas works with SHACs
throughout the state. And partners in education. DAN: Okay so someone whose
kids are all older. Okay I noticed quite a bit of change in the
makeup of our school children. AMY: Yes.
DAN: As my kids were growing up. So what’s going on in public schools today? AMY: Well the public schools are under
a lot of pressure for academic performance. So we know that as parents teachers
feel like that they are under constant pressure of being evaluated students feel
that pressure parents principals feel that. But what we know is that
healthy kids are great learners. And if we want kids to come
out of public schools college ready ready for careers then we need
to make sure that there are healthy learners. DAN: So what’s happened in that school
environment though that’s that’s impacting their health? It seems like kids are getting bigger. AMY: They are. In Texas, the sad fact is we
have the seventh highest childhood obesity rate in the country. So kids aren’t moving enough. A lot of parents don’t know this but our kids are supposed to be getting
an hour of physical activity every day like the kind of physical activity that
makes them sweat. Heartbeat fast and they don’t get that at school.
They’re not required to and so a lot of us as parents might think oh our kids are
fine they’re having P.E. at school they are but not enough to benefit their health. So our kids
aren’t active enough screen time is at an all time high our kids are walking around on their
phones on their computers. Kids aren’t eating the right food. They’re drinking a lot of
sugar. They’re eating a lot of salty fatty foods. And so you know our kids their school
their health and wellness is not what it could be. DAN: Well in my job I’m challenged a lot
because customers will say make immediate changes. So we want we want to impact this
disease. We want to impact this problem. But changing the way we teach students
in school. I mean these are long term projects. AMY: They are they are. DAN: It’s not something you can fix overnight. but tell me some of the things
your bring into schools with It’s Time Texas. AMY: Okay, Well one thing you know we do help teachers
provide health and nutrition education through apps and make that easier even for
teachers who aren’t teaching health or P.E. but a history teacher a math teacher that
might want kids to blow off a little bit of steam so that they can be still and be attentive
in class. So we provide apps and resources for that. But the reality is is we can keep giving kids tons
of information but we need to make health fun. We need to make moving fun. We need to make
food fun. So what we’re trying to do at It’s Time Texas is give opportunities for health to be fun. And
we have a community challenge every year where it’s a healthy communities competition
and people in Texas love competition that we find and that’s a lot of fun. And school districts
are major players in that and getting kids engaged in this competition representing their
school districts. We had about 300000 kids involved. DAN: In Texas?
AMY: Mhm! Doing you know group fitness activities taking selfies when they’re eating healthy
food encouraging them to drink more water challenging each other. So we’re trying to
bring fun back to health so that our students are not intimidated or
off put by trying to live a healthy. DAN: These programs also help the faculty of
the schools as well or is it just the students? AMY: Well you know teachers our kids spend the
most of their time during the week with their teachers. And if we take care of teachers’ health what we
find is that they are great role models for students. If you don’t mind to have a story I’d like to share with
you that we have a teacher in McAllen ISD Mr. Key. He’s a middle school science teacher
and his health has started to decline. He in his mid 60s had chronic back pain and
had put on some weight and wasn’t being able to do the things he enjoyed doing.
He loved sailing gardening etc. and he got involved in the community challenge.
He started working with one of our free health coaches which are supported by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas so thank you and started making change. He started exercising more. He’s changed
how he was eating and he started losing weight. And so his mobility started getting better and
his students recognized that he had his gym key fob on his key ring and started kind of
making fun of him a little getting a little curious Mr Key, what is that? Paying attention to him,
as he was losing weight asking him questions about it but as he felt better he decided
to bring his love of gardening to his students and built a school garden. At his at his
middle school. And it wasn’t just for science although they did get to learn about
soil and how food grows. But they also were growing things like home grown tomatoes
and some of the kids never had that before. So bringing that and having his students
experience that really because he made a difference in his own health and started having that
kind of ripple effect that teachers can have. DAN: I think it’s pretty fascinating. I’ve
been amazed now I’ve been on several visits around the state and the number of school
children in Texas today that actually get most of their meals from a convenience store. So they’ve
never seen an eggplant much like a tomato and know how to cook that
at home. If that were to happen. AMY: Well even when I was learning more
about Mr. Key’s story to find out that there were so many students I had never had
homegrown tomato that was really surprising to me. DAN: So one of the things I think is really
exciting about your work is the fact that a lot of these programs we won’t see benefits from
this kind of health education until these kids are adults. AMY: That’s right. DAN: But there’s immediate
impact as you said on learning and attention in school and meeting
those meaning those kind of metrics. AMY: Yes.
DAN: Those are real things that happen now. AMY: Yeah they are. Well another thing is
as parents learn more about helping their kids be healthy you know they will start making
changes themselves. You know that there is more than just a benefit to this generation of kids growing
up and the potential for us to change their trajectory. But the people involved in
their lives will be affected by trying to help them be
healthier and be better learners. DAN: Well Amy, thanks for being here.
Thanks for joining us on Blue Promise and thank you for joining us as well. MUSIC

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