Healthy Schools and Literacy Policies

Our children spend an average of 30 – 50 hours per week in school. Schools are a central community hub in the lives of children and should be places that encourage and support healthy behaviours.

In addition, education, literacy and training are acknowledged as vehicles for transcending low socio-economic circumstances including health status. “Those who graduate from high school show significantly better health and family functioning than non graduates.” [i]

Beyond high school, basic literacy skills are needed by all citizens and yet, seventeen percent (17%) of British Columbians have low literacy. Literacy skills enhance employment opportunities as well as a person’s ability to use and understand written and verbal communication and thereby participate in society.

BCAHL recommends the following policy options:

  • The BC Government should introduce healthy living curriculum into schools which would encompass: physical education; food system knowledge, including differentiating between healthy and unhealthy food and beverages; food preparation skills; screen time reduction; and ensuring that students receive at least 60 minutes of daily physical activity.
  • Consider active transportation when situating new schools and in existing schools – both in terms of facilities that create safe routes and education that encourages walking and cycling.
  • Commit and fund additional human resources to support the early identification of students who may withdraw from their education prior to graduation.
    • Provide intensive individualized instruction including the use of tutoring and mentoring programs delivered by teachers interested and trained to work with at-risk students.
    • Provide opportunities to make up work via summer and night school and correspondence.
  • Integrate the delivery of child and youth assessment and support services to address substance abuse, teen pregnancy and young parenthood, suicide prevention, counselling and other mental and physical health issues into schools in consultation and coordination with the school and school district administrators, school psychologists and social service /public health agencies.
  • Ensure all professionals working with Aboriginal and immigrant students have a proven level of cultural competency and access to training.
  • Work with First Nations communities and educators to develop a plan to increase the rate of Aboriginal children graduating from high school to the same rates as non-Aboriginal children within ten years.
  • Increase support for low-income students to pursue post-secondary education and vocational training opportunities by building on the BC Grant, the BC Loan Reduction Program and extending support for students in one-year training programs.
  • Review and strengthen support for adult basic education training.
  • Encourage literacy programs particularly in the workplace.

REFERENCES

[i] Strengthening the Social Determinants of Health: The Toronto Charter for a Healthy Canada. 2002.