COVID19: A Promising Future for Health Ed and Equity?

On my return flight from Tampa for the 2019 SHAPE America National Convention in April 2019, I was suddenly awakened from a nap and my first thought was “redefine our community”. This statement etched in my mind as I projected on the upcoming year ahead and the opportunity for transformation for our health and physical education community. During my Presidential year of SHAPE America, it was important to me to focus on promoting health.moves.minds., aligning to the Whole School, Whole Community and Whole Child model and elevating the role of health and physical education teachers in schools! Not coincidental, this theme and vision for our professional future also aligns perfectly with the mission of the company I work for at ETR. ETR’s non-profit mission is advancing health equity, inequity is at the heart of what prevents consistent health literacy outcomes in America’s educational system.

A year later, in the face of this global pandemic called COVID19, my tenure as SHAPE America President comes to an end. In the face of this, I find myself repeating to others in leadership: “Be careful what your theme is!”. Clearly, I never could have imagined how extraordinary our HPE community would be redefined, but how every community around the globe is literally being redefined.

Today, in the face of the unknown is the opportunity to realize that while this is a momentary redefining of norms, it is also a tremendous pivotal moment in history. There is a challenge to truly reassess what will be prioritized in education to come! Every day, this new norm has me watching my Governor in Kentucky, do daily press briefings. Governor Beshear, day after day, repeats the key messages that are near and dear to our hearts in health education: decision making, goal setting, analyzing influences, accessing valid resources, practicing health enhancing behaviors, advocating, etc. Health education standards, or more appropriately skills, are the new norm for what matters and what we need emphasized each and every day! My call to action is that we must dream big now, we must begin discussions today about the things that truly matter in defining school success and student success. I have observed teachers calling their students individually, not to ask how their schoolwork is going, but to see how they are doing emotionally. I have read about mental health providers posting supportive messages to educators and promoting self-care. I have learned more about secondary trauma among educators. My own children have had the opportunity to eat school lunches that are handed out daily through a drive through at the school. This year for the first time in a very long time, schools will not be measured by a standardized test. Schools and teachers are working as hard as ever to meet the needs of their students in numerous ways that go well beyond what can be measured by a test score.

This is today’s reality… schools are rising to the occasion in ways that we never could have imagined to address the needs of the whole child: safe, healthy, supported, engaged and challenged. In a matter of days school districts transformed themselves to ensure that their students needs were met despite a global epidemic. These whole child tenets are not new to the mission of schools, schools do it all the time except they rarely get credit for doing so! The Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015 was a small step forward away from beginning to shift the high stakes mentality of the No Child Left Behind years. However the COVID19 epidemic may create that giant leap forward for improving health equity in our schools and communities via prioritization, accountability measures and consistent funding for school health programs and public health!

This microblog post was a featured post in  #slowchathealth’s #microblogweek. You can search for all of the featured posts here. Please do follow each of the outstanding contributors on social media (includingJamie Sparks, the author of this post) and consider writing a microblog post of your own to be shared with the global audience of slowchathealth.com

 

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