Study after study shows a clear link between the health of our kids and their educational success. That’s not just because kids who are obese are more likely to suffer from chronic health conditions such as asthma or diabetes, which can keep them home during the school year. Obesity also has an impact on a child’s self-esteem.
And whether they are overweight or not, kids who are active and eat healthy meals are better students.
So when the Center for Disease Control and Prevention released its National Survey of Children’s Health in 2011 showing that South Carolina had the second highest rate of childhood obesity in the nation, it was clear that we had a lot of work to do as a state.
Today, thanks to the Medical University of South Carolina’s Boeing Center for Children’s Wellness and schools across South Carolina, we are tackling this problem. Working together, we have created a school wellness checklist to help schools institute evidence-based strategies and policy recommendations on everything from increasing the amount of physical activity students get each day to helping school lunch programs create more nutritious menus.
During the past school year alone, 243 schools serving more than 160,000 students participated in this effort.
One hundred ten of those schools have planted school gardens as part of the farm-to-school initiative. This program incorporates hands-on learning with cooking classes and school gardening activities. Student participants not only learn about healthy living, but also have higher math and science test scores than their peers.
This year, we are working to expand this program to serve even more students. The programs that started in Charleston now serve 15 school districts in South Carolina as well as 25 schools in Pottstown, Pa. Our program recently achieved national recognition by receiving the 2016 Wellness Frontiers Award from the Healthcare Leadership Council.
None of this could have happened without Boeing’s support. And it is just one of the many partnerships the company has created to help build a better South Carolina. One that helps improve our kids’ health and allows the Palmetto State’s youth to achieve their potential.
When Bill Boeing started the company in 1916, he recognized that investing in the community would pay dividends in the long-term and was the right thing to do. That’s why he paid for the University of Washington to build a wind tunnel to test airplanes and helped the school create a new program focused on the science of aeronautics. And it’s why Boeing helped establish the Center for Children’s Wellness at MUSC.
Since 2010, Boeing has donated $4 million to help the center promote health and wellness in schools across South Carolina, with the goal of reducing childhood obesity.
That’s not going to show up in anyone’s quarterly earnings report. But over the long haul, it will help ensure our state has a strong, educated workforce. And that creates new opportunities for S.C. businesses including Boeing to grow and thrive — just what the company will need as it kicks off its second 100 years of innovation.
Dr. Key is director of the Boeing Center for Children’s Wellness and director of adolescent medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina; contact her at email@example.com.