Noting the strong link between students’ health and their ability to learn, health advocates want the federal departments of Education and Health and Human Services to make a few small changes they believe could improve students’ academic and physical well-being and work to close achievement gaps.
The Healthy Schools Campaign, a nonprofit group based in Chicago, and Trust for America’s Health, based in Washington, have asked U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius for changes that include appointing new federal staff members to shepherd school health efforts and undoing Medicaid red tape so schools can be reimbursed for some health services they provide.
Rochelle Davis, the president and chief executive officer of the Healthy Schools Campaign, said the proposals were designed to be simple, straightforward, and already within the budgetary and regulatory authority of the federal government.
“We take both of them at their word that they will take these recommendations seriously,” Ms. Davis said after a May 9 presentation in Washington at which Mr. Duncan and Ms. Sebelius recounted the Obama administration’s efforts to improve children’s health.
Those efforts include first lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign that targets childhood obesity; expansion of the Children’s Health Insurance Program; and the Affordable Care Act. That last expanded health-insurance coverage for children, including those with pre-existing medical conditions, and provided grant money to build and expand school-based health centers.