Sean Slade

A Big Week for Health and Well-Being in DC

It's been a big week for health and well-being. On Thursday, December 2, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released Healthy People 2020—the nation's new 10-year goals and objectives for health promotion and disease prevention. Key words: promotion and prevention.

As HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stated, "The launch of Healthy People 2020 comes at a critical time. Our challenge and opportunity is to avoid preventable diseases from occurring in the first place."

This was echoed by Assistant Secretary for Health Howard K. Koh, who stated, "Too many people are not reaching their full potential for health because of preventable conditions. Healthy People is the nation's roadmap and compass for better health, providing our society a vision for improving both the quantity and quality of life for all Americans."

Added for this decade are several new topics that have direct links to a whole child approach to education, including

  • Early and Middle Childhood, which plans to document and track population-based measures of health and well-being for early and middle childhood populations over time in the United States;
  • Adolescent Health, which aims to improve the healthy development, health, safety, and well-being of adolescents and young adults; and
  • Social Determinants of Health, which recognize that we all have a part to play in youth health and well-being in homes, schools, workplaces, and communities.

Later that same day, the U.S. Congress passed a child nutrition bill, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. This bill, once signed by President Obama, would boost spending on child nutrition $4.5 billion over 10 years and raise federal reimbursements for school lunches more than the inflation rate for the first time since 1973. It also would require for the first time that free drinking water be available where meals are served.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan stated, "Today, Congress approved a bill that will make the most significant investment in the National School Lunch program in more than 30 years. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act will increase healthy choices in school cafeterias across the country. These changes will help schools fight our country's childhood obesity epidemic and give students access to the nutritional food they need to help them learn. I look forward to working with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to provide students with the healthy foods they need and deserve."

While these are two separate releases, they certainly coincide. It would be difficult to achieve the Healthy People 2020 goals around adolescent health or social determinants of health, for example, without the passage of a child nutrition bill, and hopefully the passage of Healthy People 2020 provides a framework for Congress to consider around prevention, health, and well-being.

Comments (3)

PE, Recess, and Beyond: The Implications of Moveme

December 10, 2010

[...] A Big Week for Health and Well-Being in DC [...]

Dr. Patrick Groff, Professor of Education, San Die

January 20, 2011

Is it now clear that school children from upper-income homes are more “whole” than are ones from low-income families? Thus, do teachers who instruct the former group of students have less to worry about the “wholeness” of their youngsters than do the other kind of instructors? Please explain this situation of the “Whole Child” in greater and more practical detail.

Sean Slade

January 21, 2011

A ‘Whole Child’ approach is not dependent upon socio-economic status – it is more an understanding that a true education has to encompass developing the child socially, emotionally, physically, mentally as well as cognitively.

As a result of NCLB we have seen schools narrow their mission and focus to an academics-only approach. Lately with greater understanding of what constitutes a well-rounded education we have seen more schools re establish a range of subjects and teaching methods to better serve their students and communities.

We have a wide range of schools that take a Whole Child approach – from inner city Baltimore schools to rural New Mexico schools to suburban schools in Ontario. These schools cover not only the geographic range but also the socio economic range. Case study examples of some of these schools can be seen at and .

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