15th Annual National Healthy Schools Day
45 Partners Call for Investing in Children’s Health and Learning
(Tuesday, April 4, 2017) – “In this our 15th year of celebrating healthy schools, we are focused closely on two core problems,” said Claire Barnett, Executive Director, Healthy Schools Network, the national sponsor of the Day: “that too many schools and child care facilities are in poor condition and that there is no public health support for children in harm’s way.” School infrastructure was recently given the grade of D+ by the American Society of Civil Engineers, up from the D that ASCE awarded in 2013.
President of the Network’s Board of Director’s Chip Halverson, ND, of Oregon said: “In my work as a teacher and now a physician, I am working with children and adults every day who are adversely affected by the polluting chemicals they can smell, taste and touch. There are so many more kids enrolled today with disabilities it is hard to know where to start, but regardless of what’s happening at home or the community, schools have an affirmative responsibility to reduce artificial barriers to learning by reducing the use of toxic products indoors and out.”
Fewer schools, less money, more children in need. Across the US, there are 130,000 public and private K-12 schools enrolling some 55 million children and employing about 7 million adults. In all, about 20% of the total US population is in school every day. Today, there are fewer public schools than a few years ago, but more children in them, more children with asthma and in poverty, more with special needs, more on subsidized meal programs, yet fewer federal and state dollars for education and fewer staff.
No surprise then that the federal health agencies’ Healthy People 2020 goals tailored for schools will not be met: in fact, districts are below their 2010 baseline for taking action on Indoor Air Quality, Hazardous Materials Management, Lead in Water, and safer pest control (IPM).
Children at Risk. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reported that half of all schools have problems with indoor air pollution, a complex problem attributable to various sources, such as poor siting or engineering, leaky roofs, deferred maintenance and repairs, and the use of toxic products indoors and out. Polluted indoor environments add to children’s health and learning problems every single day. They contribute to rising asthma cases, frequent asthma hospitalizations during the school year, absenteeism, and other health issues such as problems concentrating and headaches, as well as cancer and other long-term diseases.