The Cooper Institute

Founded in 1970 by the "Father of Aerobics"
Kenneth H. Cooper MD, MPH


Advocating for Whole Child Health

Written by
Amber Freeland
Posted in

Friday, May 17, 2019

At The Cooper Institute, we talk a lot about improving whole-child health, but what exactly does that mean? How can parents and teachers be advocates for the health and wellness of children at home and in the community?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) routinely examines the most common health-related issues that our students face. The most common issues are the same one that The Cooper Institute has a vested interest in - issues like physical activity, nutrition, obesity prevention and chronic conditions. In collaboration with education, public health and school health sectors, the CDC developed a model called Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) to help align their common goals and make impactful change.

The student-centered WSCC model has 10 components to support whole child health. Combined, these pieces help round out the physical and emotional well-being of our children and puts them on the path to success in school and long after:

  1. Physical education and physical activity
  2. Nutrition environment and services
  3. Health education
  4. Social and emotional school climate
  5. Physical environment
  6. Health services
  7. Counseling, psychological and social services
  8. Employee wellness
  9. Community involvement
  10. Family engagement

Parents and teachers play a critical role as advocates along the way by ensuring that their children’s needs are being met at home and at school. Together, parents and teachers can establish healthy behaviors in childhood - a much easier task than changing unhealthy behaviors as an adult.

The CDC has a special Parents for Healthy Schools section to guide parents on how they can help to create healthy school environments. It’s also important for parents to also understand the valuable role of fitness assessments, like FitnessGram by The Cooper Institute, in evaluating overall physical health of children.    

One issue that isn’t directly mentioned in the whole-child model though is the importance of vision screening. More than 12.1 million children in America have some form of vision problem and 1 out of 4 students have an undetected vision problem, according to the Vision Impact Institute.

Learn more about Kids See: Success

Myopia, or nearsightedness, is the most common vision problem and is on the rise in large part due to excessive screen time on TVs, mobile devices and computers. Since nearly 80% of learning in schools is visual, this is a critical issue that cannot be overlooked when advocating for whole-child health.

The overall learning, development and health of students is really in the hands of community leaders and families. “When schools engage families in meaningful ways to improve student health and learning, families can support and reinforce healthy behaviors in multiple settings—at home, in school, in out-of-school programs, and in the community,” according to the CDC Healthy Schools website.

To learn more about how you can advocate for whole-child health, visit these resources: