On Monday, June 4, Live Well Omaha Kids Coalition Director, Sheena Helgenberger, and Endowed Scholar, Ashley Carroll, spoke at the 2018 School Health Conference presented by the Nebraska School Nurse Association in Kearney, NE. Addressing the crowd of nearly 200 school nurses, Live Well Omaha Kids staff discussed the barriers children face in leading a healthy lifestyle and the part each of us plays in creating healthy environments where students can learn and practice healthy habits.

Ashley Carroll says, “There are many touch points throughout a child’s typical day where we can encourage healthy food choices and more physical activity. Things that we know to be effective include: after the school bell breakfast programs, daily recess for elementary students before lunch, more PE class and walk/ bike to school programs, to name a few.” She adds, “Research confirms that healthy students are better learners. If we do not prioritize school wellness, we are squandering an opportunity to set children up for a lifetime of academic success and good health.”

The Live Well Omaha Kids staff shared recent data on the impact of childhood obesity in the Omaha metro- including the fact that over 28,000 children in Douglas County alone are currently at an unhealthy weight. They also shared findings from the Student Moves research project that examined local physical education practices as a context for youth physical activity. In the pilot study, third-grade students were observed in three separate elementary schools. Despite SHAPE America’s recommendation that elementary students receive 150 minutes of PE weekly, students participating in the Student Moves project received an average of only 62.5 minutes weekly. Finally, the two shared insights for those interested in starting a Safe Routes to School program from their experience piloting the evidence-based program in three parochial schools over the past year. “We’re hoping to bring evidence into action across the Omaha metro and beyond!” said Ashley.

Staying true to Live Well Omaha Kid’s pedagogy, attendees were prompted throughout the presentation to take a short brain break- an opportunity to energize the mind by engaging the body, an effective tool for educators to refocus classroom attention and keep students moving throughout otherwise sedentary instructional time.