Creating Environments for Students to Eat Healthy and Be Active

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Over the past 30 years, obesity rates have soared in every sector of the country, especially among children. Childhood obesity has more than doubled among children age 6-11 and quadrupled among adolescents age 12-19 in the past 30 years. As of 2012, 1 in 3 children or youth was overweight or obese. The good news is, we know that prevention works, and preventing obesity early, in childhood, is easier and makes a big difference.

We all want to ensure our children have the best opportunity to be healthier and live longer, more productive lives – to do this, we need to focus on prevention during childhood, and in all settings including schools. Schools provide opportunities for students to learn about and practice healthy eating and physical activity behaviors. The health of students—what they eat and how much physical activity they get—is linked to their academic success.

To have the most positive impact on the health outcomes of young people, government agencies, community organizations, schools, and other community members must work together through the collaborative and comprehensive approach of the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) model to improve learning and health in our nation’s schools.

Schools can create environments supportive of students’ efforts to eat healthy and be active by implementing policies and practices based on CDC’s School Health Guidelines to Promote Healthy Eating and Physical Activity in Schools. These 9 evidence-based guidelines serve as a foundation for developing, implementing, and evaluating school-based healthy eating and physical activity policies and practices for students.

By engaging parents to support healthy school environments, strengthening local school wellness policies, and providing professional development to education professionals, schools can be the right place for a healthy start.

For more information on school-based strategies to prevent obesity among youth, visit


By Holly Hunt, MA

Chief, School Health Branch

Division of Population Health

National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention



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Page last reviewed: August 18, 2015
Page last updated: August 18, 2015