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Publication Gives Schools 'How To' Ideas for Involving Parents in School Health

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Malia and Sasha Obama certainly know where their mom stands on the matter of healthy living. When it comes to the first lady, so does most of America.

A new government publication aims to help schools enlist parents in promoting and sustaining health in their children.

Published by the CDC's Division of Adolescent and School Health (DASH), Parent Engagement: Strategies for Involving Parents in School Health covers how schools can connect with parents about health education for children, engage parents in the subject matter, and ultimately sustain ongoing interest in the mission.

DASH recommends that school administrators begin with an assessment to determine how best to communicate with parents, asking what health-related activities they would find most appealing. This is also a way to learn about parents' concerns for their students' special medical and health needs on topics like "asthma, diabetes and food allergies."

To engage parents, DASH offers numerous examples of successful programs at schools across the country.

For instance, a stress management workshop was held for parents of students in a Buffalo, N.Y., pre-K-4th-grade school. Parents learned alongside teachers, administrators and community members.

The Shelby County, Tenn., school district features a "Virtual Café" on its website, where school lunch menus are explained, including nutritional information and prices so parents can go online to discuss meal choices with their children.

In Albuquerque, N.M., the schools are collaborating with the community to make the city's schools more "asthma friendly."

Once schools have engaged parents in educating their children about healthy choices, they can decide how to sustain the momentum they create.

The authors of the report also suggest that schools organize a team or committee that oversees parent engagement.

Finally, the report details how to address common challenges to sustaining a parent engagement initiative for health.

And in case there's any doubt about the need for such engagement, consider: As of 2008, one-third of U.S. students were either overweight or obese, according to a 2010 report in the Journal of the American Medical Association, quoted on the website of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

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