School wellness initiatives are starting to become a top priority for many districts across Kentucky, especially given all of the state’s alarming health statistics. According to the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, nearly 36 percent of young people in the state are considered overweight or obese.
“Without a doubt, students and staff who make healthy habits part of their daily life feel and perform better,” said Tim Abrams, superintendent of Henry County Public Schools.
Abrams knows firsthand how important this concept is. Since making his own health a priority, he has been able to stop taking medication for high blood pressure and high cholesterol. He said being physically active also has enabled him to better handle the daily stresses of being a school superintendent.
Henry County is a rural community located in the northcentral part of the state. The school district consists of more than 300 staff members and 2,100 students spread out among three elementary schools, a middle and a high school. For the past 12 years, the district has put a strong focus on staff and student wellness.
Whether it’s the staff participating in their 12th annual “Biggest Loser” weight-loss challenge or the elementary students tracking their steps with pedometers, the message is clear in Henry County schools that health and overall well-being of staff and students is a big part of the district’s strategic plan.
District Nurse Melissa Jeffries has been crucial to the district’s wellness initiatives, using grant money to fund new ways to keep students and staff active.
“I purchased exercise DVDs for staff to check out and use in their homes,” she said. “I also purchased fun activity bags (which included things like hula hoops, hacky sacks and a variety of balls) for the elementary teachers to take outside on recess to offer kids additional ways to play. I purchased the TAKE10! Program for elementary classrooms to help incorporate movement and activity into their school day.”
The district also has started to hold 5K races as fundraisers, like the middle school’s Zombie 5K Run. For this race, in which participants dressed up like zombies. Each runner selected a school club or group and the proceeds, totaling nearly $700, were divided between three of the randomly chosen groups.
Another way the district has been able to help staff focus on their health is through the wellness program Go365 – formerly HumanaVitality – which is offered as part of the insurance benefits provided by the state.
Go365 is a wellness program that rewards individuals to learn about their current health, complete preventive screenings, engage in physical activity and achieve wellness goals.
“Since entering the program, I have transformed from an individual who rarely got off the couch to a person who will run my fifth half marathon next month. Go365 has been a life changer for me personally,” Abrams said.
“Go365 has been a great asset to me and my family,” Jeffries said. “We all wear Fitbits and join the monthly challenges, competing against each other as a family.”
When leaders in a school district understand the importance of health and wellness, the staff and students benefit. This could not be more obvious than at Henry County Public Schools
Katherine Hendy is the Go365 client engagement consultant for the Henry County Schools. She has been with Humana since 2013 and in her current position working with the Kentucky Employees Health Plan for more than two years. Hendy is a graduate of the University of Tennessee and a certified health and life Insurance agent.