Live Well Schools Timeline
Live Well Schools is a collaboration of community partners, led by the County of San Diego. A key strategy of Live Well Schools is to build and strengthen the relationships between schools, districts, and community partners so that they can better work together to address the impacts that health and absenteeism have on academic performance, mental health, and overall quality of life.
One example of an area where partners have made incredible progress is around childhood obesity. School districts across the county have taken active steps to improve student health by addressing factors that contribute to childhood obesity. They have revamped and enhanced their school wellness policies to limit unhealthy treats, provide more fresh vegetables, increase physical activity, and improve social and emotional supports for students.
In 2010, the Chula Vista Elementary School District began measuring the effectiveness of their school wellness program by monitoring and tracking the Body Mass Index (BMI) for its nearly 25,000 K–sixth grade students every two years. From 2010 to 2018, they had a 7.7% decrease in the percentage of students in the obese category, equating to about 330 fewer students in the obese BMI category for 2018.
Additionally, there was a 2.9% increase in the percentage of students in the normal weight category from 2010 to 2018, equating to approximately 600 more students in the normal weight category in 2018.
It was this initiative that kick-started the conversation between schools and community partners, including the San Diego County Office of Education, First 5 San Diego, and superintendents from across the county that led to the creation of Live Well Schools in 2015.
Tools for Schools Toolkit
The Tools for Schools toolkit equips school districts and individual schools with the resources and best practices needed to implement policies and programs aimed at reducing childhood obesity and chronic absenteeism, and creating healthier school environments for all students. It highlights innovative and practical programs for school policy-makers and other key stakeholders to adopt and tailor to meet the needs of their unique student population and community. Superintendents throughout the county and their key staff provided input on policies, programs, and partnerships most important to them, which are included in the toolkit.
The first edition provided schools with resources focused on improving healthy eating and physical activity. Based on feedback from a growing collaboration of partners, the second edition (2017) included additional resources emphasizing behavioral health and social and emotional wellness, both critical to a student’s ability to learn. With further research and feedback from partners, a new interactive Live Well Schools website was launched in 2020 to make it easier to find the tools that schools need. New to this edition of the toolkit is data analysis on chronic absenteeism. Chronic absenteeism correlates with increased high school dropout rates, adverse health outcomes, poverty in adulthood, and interaction with the criminal justice system (University of Delaware, June, 2018).
Live Well Schools offers several strategies moving forward:
Policy - Federal, state, and local policies, including local school wellness policies, play a crucial role in designing school environments so that the healthy choice becomes the easier choice.
Partnerships - Building more trusting relationships between schools, districts, and community partners will allow all parties to react to challenges more quickly and effectively and find practical solutions together.
Programs – Investing in programs that promote physical, mental, and social emotional well-being can support student success.
Together, Live Well Schools is addressing health disparities, responding to new opportunities and challenges, and moving us closer to the goal of health equity for all children in San Diego County.
Partner Success Stories
The Alliance Clears a Pathway to
College Attainment in North County
The Alliance to Accelerate Excellence in Education (The Alliance) at California State University San Marcos is a regionally focused initiative intended to create a comprehensive and comprehensible pathway to college access and success. A critical component of promoting access for all students, particularly those whose parents may be unfamiliar with the path to entering college, has been communicating an early message that college is attainable. This is why Alliance programs focus on supporting the cognitive, social, and emotional needs of youth of all ages while empowering those charged with their care.
Guided by principles of partnership,
collaboration and academic excellence, The Alliance serves as the
oversight and support office for Guaranteed Admission agreements with
ten area school districts, including
Carlsbad Unified School District,
Escondido Union High School District, Fallbrook Union
Elementary School District,
Vallecitos School District,
Oceanside Unified School District,
San Marcos Unified School District, and
Vista Unified School District among
others. In addition to having Guaranteed Admission Agreements with ten
local school districts, CSUSM also has agreements with sovereign
governments and other educational agencies.
The number of students who have entered CSUSM under The Alliance agreement continues to grow with over 1,000 students enrolled during the 2018-2019 academic year. In the Class of 2019, 55 percent of students were first in their family to graduate with a four-year degree. Additionally, 64 percent of enrolled students self-identify as persons of color. The Alliance is committed to providing the necessary resources to ensure the success of all members of our community. The Alliance reduces barriers to college success that have traditionally presented challenges for regional students and bolsters the systems that support academic achievement among all learners.
Obesity Rates Improve Slightly
Due to Changes Across Systems
The San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative was established in 2006 and, over a decade later, helped guide and implement remarkable advancements in access to opportunities for healthy eating and physical activity including changes in community infrastructure; school and early childhood settings; local, state, and federal policies; and healthcare settings through collective impact.
In examining trends across longer periods of time, overweight and obesity prevalence among children in San Diego County appears to be leveling off and even declining slightly. For example, a 2005 UCLA study estimated 36% of children in San Diego County were overweight or obese, with that number decreasing to 35% in 2010. Based on these data, childhood overweight and obesity prevalence in 2018 has decreased by two percentage points since 2005. This small decrease from 36% to 34%, however, would represent approximately 8,600 fewer students across public school districts who were overweight and obese in 2017-2018.
Just as obesity rates rose over several decades, sustained, long-term
efforts must continue to see reductions. It is also clear that
challenges remain in reaching the highest-need communities and
addressing the multitude of upstream issues that make it difficult for
many families to make healthy choices.
Partners are encouraged to work collaboratively to implement strategies outlined in The Call to Action: San Diego County Childhood Obesity Action Plan that are designed to create and improve social, economic, service, and institutional, and built environments that support healthy eating and active living. It emphasizes policy, system, and environmental changes with the recognition that it is easier for individuals to make healthy choices to reduce and prevent childhood obesity when the physical and social environment in which they live supports these choices.
Recent priority areas for the initiative center on addressing Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and contributing factors on parenting and healthy development of children with specific focus on 0-5 years of age and advocating for policies supporting comprehensive Pre-K-12 health education, access to schools meals, and increased opportunities for physical activity.
Measuring Outcomes and Success:
Chula Vista Elementary School District
The Chula Vista Elementary School District has prioritized health and wellness as a key foundation for student success. In 2010, they measured the height and weight of over 25,000 students to get a first look at their student’s health and have continued to measure this data every two years. The results showed that 22% of K-6 students were obese and 18% were overweight. The data was sorted by school, student grade level, and ethnicity to help communities and parents understand the impact of obesity on their neighborhoods and kids.
Progress to date shows:
In addition to the above progress, the Chula Vista Elementary School District has made efforts to improve their Local School Wellness Policy. Results from an analysis using the WellSAT scoring tool show that the district’s wellness policy improved significantly in strength and comprehensiveness from 2012 to 2017. In 2017, they partnered with the Childhood Obesity Initiative and the County of San Diego to conduct a district-wide assessment of wellness policy implementation and included in its wellness policy a requirement for school sites to designate a Site Wellness Lead. These leads meet quarterly and lead wellness assessment and implementation efforts at their school sites.
This positive progress in obesity rates has not only demonstrated the Chula Vista Elementary School District’s commitment to supporting school environments that promote student wellness, proper nutrition education, and regular physical activity but also the power of partners working toward a common goal.