Health and Fitness Assessments Provides Important Data

Testimony by TMA and the Texas Pediatric Society

Senate Committee on Education
Senate Bill 65
March 19, 2013

The Texas Medical Association (TMA) and the Texas Pediatric Society (TPS), representing 47,000 physicians and medical students, support Senate Bill 65 by Sen. Jane Nelson to implement the Healthy School Recognition Program in Texas schools. We believe SB 65 establishes a program that will complement and facilitate current efforts in our state to promote student health and fitness. Texas schools can impact children  positively by providing a healthy environment. These schools should be recognized  for their efforts to improve the health of Texas and Texans.

Physicians are extremely concerned about the health and fitness of Texas’ children. We know obesity often begins in childhood, and when it does, it has a  lasting effect on a child’s health. Many of our members are caring for adolescents and teens who have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or prediabetes — all conditions that are known risk factors for cardiovascular disease, bone and joint problems, and many different types of cancer in adulthood. Unfortunately, schoolchildren who are overweight or obese also often face social and emotional difficulties. These problems can prevent them from succeeding academically or getting involved in school activities.

Children are heavily influenced by their school, home, and community. Most of the 4 million students attending Texas schools spend at least six hours a day at school. School environments should encourage and foster student health. SB 65 takes a needed step in that direction. The bill’s recognition program would evaluate Texas schools based on many of the tools they are already using to create a healthy environment. This includes tools implemented by the Texas Legislature, such as school fitness assessments, coordinated school health programming, and local school health advisory councils. SB 65 not only will encourage schools to use these tools but also will increase community awareness and add accountability to obesity-prevention activities.

We appreciate that this legislation would allow for monetary and in-kind rewards for schools awarded under the Healthy School Recognition Program. We believe a recognition program with a monetary reward will promote action in schools and have a greater impact in all parts of the state.

Just as we recognize academic excellence in our schools, we need to recognize excellence in our schools for supporting student health and fitness. We thank Senator Nelson for her leadership over the years to help Texas schools create healthy environments. The Texas Legislature has helped lay the foundation for school health. We know many schools and communities already are building on the school fitness data and working with their communities to promote school health and academic achievement. The Healthy School Recognition Program will add to these efforts. More importantly, it will bring public recognition to and increase parental awareness of what is working to support children. Our physicians look forward to working with you to implement this important legislation.

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