School employee wellness series: School health starts with the employees

Leading by example, school employees can make a difference in the health of students.

Creating a culture of health and wellness at your school often starts with the employees. This can include the teachers, administrators, support staff, bus drivers, custodians, etc.

Where to start?

Support is needed. This includes administrators, leaders, employees, human resources and possibly a current school wellness council. Identify the champions that have an influence, interest and passion for creating a culture of health. This may include health educators, physical education teachers, coaches, food service directors or those who just have an interest or personal passion.

Determine the need and goals for a school employee wellness program at your school. Goals may align with district health policies or be more specific to a school. You can always check with your local Michigan State University Extension health and nutrition staff. Examples may include reducing the risk of chronic disease for staff and students; improve student and staff health and productivity; model healthy behaviors for the community; and to make the school/work environment supportive for positive health behaviors.

Often times to start a positive worksite wellness culture, you have to start by building a business case. The benefits of an employee wellness program at a school are endless and include:

  • Healthy role modeling for students
  • Increased productivity
  • Increased employee retention
  • Positive community image
  • Decreased absenteeism
  • Increased morale

It’s best to then identify current resources and gaps that may be available from the school or community. This can include media resources, local businesses, hospitals, parent organizations, volunteer organizations, health department officials, department of education, etc. When identifying resources, it can also be beneficial to identify the interests and needs of employees. The maintenance steps will include developing, implementing and evaluating/revising the plan and program. The final step includes sustaining the program in the future.

A school employee wellness program is vital to create a culture of health where students and employees can thrive. With all challenges, come successes in the lives of students and staff daily. For more information on each topic check back for the future news article titled “School Employee Wellness.”

Please visit http://msue.anr.msu.edu/topic/info/food_health for health and nutrition programs and educational opportunities.

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