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Physical Health and Wellness

At NEA Health Information Network, we believe that NEA members will best serve their students when their own physical health is in good condition. In the busy hustle and bustle of work and family commitments, physical health often gets overlooked, or in some cases even ignored, until there's a problem requiring medical attention. The resources and information in this section are designed to educate NEA members about physical health and wellness topics and to provide information about how to make school environments healthier places for NEA members and the 43 million students they serve daily.

Based on our research, the most common physical health and wellness issues affecting NEA members and the students they serve are obesity, hunger, chronic disease, infectious disease and sexual and reproductive health.

  • Obesity: In the United States, obesity among adults and children is at epidemic proportions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one-third of adults in the United States—over 72 million people—are obese and nearly one in three children in the U.S. are overweight or obese. In the past three decades obesity rates for adults have doubled and rates for children have tripled.  Along with obesity come physical, psychological, and social consequences for both groups.

  • Healthy School Food: Students receive up to fifty percent of their daily calories at school, making it the ideal environment to model healthy eating habits. NEA HIN launched a website, BagtheJunk.org, to educate, mobilize, and empower members of the school community to take action to support healthy snacks and drinks sold in school a la carte lines, vending machines, stores and fundraisers. The website serves to support the federal Smart Snacks in Schools nutrition standards as well as state and local efforts to create healthy school food environments.

  • Chronic Disease: Many adults, as well as an increasing number of children and young adults, suffer from chronic health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, cancer, asthma, and obesity. These diseases are common, costly and can cause major limitations to daily living. The good news is that the majority of chronic diseases are preventable through the adoption of healthy behaviors.

  • Hunger: While seemingly a paradox to the increasing rate of obesity in the U.S., hunger is also on the rise. In 2012, 14.5 percent of households – 49 million people – were food insecure at some point during that year (i.e. having limited or uncertain access to nutritious, safe foods necessary to lead a healthy lifestyle), including 15.9 million children. That’s 1 in 5 kids who struggle with hunger in the United States. Because children spend the majority of their time at school, the school environment is an ideal venue to identify and address childhood hunger issues through programs like Breakfast in the Classroom.

  • Infectious Disease: Schools bring together, in close proximity, 53 million students and six million adults each day.  By their very nature—shared equipment, supplies and space— schools foster the spread of germs and infectious diseases. This section provides information on the most common types of infectious disease in the school environment, including influenza, MRSA, norovirus, blood borne disease, and sexually transmitted diseases (STD) and resources for infectious disease prevention.

  • Sexual and Reproductive Health: Schools are an optimal location to educate children and young adults about the risks of sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancy. Each year there are approximately 19 million new sexually transmitted disease (STD) infections, about half of which are contracted by males and females aged 15-24. In addition, approximately 750,000 teenage girls become pregnant each year.  This section offers resources and information on the most common sexual transmitted diseases (STDs) and teen pregnancy prevention.