August 23, 2018
Central Health-supported recess policy focuses on the health and educational benefits of daily recess
(Austin) – Students at Manor Independent School District (ISD) and Leander ISD headed back to class with something new to look forward to – daily recess.
Led by the Central Health Equity Policy Council, both districts adopted policies over the summer to ensure students have 20-30 minutes of supervised, unstructured physical activity per day, in addition to the 135 minutes of structured physical education per week.
“By implementing a recess policy, our schools can help prevent chronic diseases and promote healthy habits for the overall well-being of our students,” said Michael Perkins, Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction at Manor ISD. “We are thankful to the Central Health Equity Policy Council for their support because this policy is good for both our students and our teachers. Students will learn better and teachers can be more effective.”
The Central Health Equity Policy Council is a Central Health-led coalition of 70 community partners who advocate for health equity in Travis County with the goal of achieving wellness for all. Last year, the council began working with a number of Central Texas school districts on recess policies to promote better heath by mandating unstructured physical activity for all elementary school children.“There is a large and growing body of research that demonstrates the many health and wellness benefits of recess time,” Perkins said. “Research shows that during unstructured recess, children improve their physical, social, emotional and cognitive health.”
In addition, unstructured physical activity provides children with opportunities to interact with each other, coming up with their own games and making decisions that stimulate problem-solving and creative thinking, which in turn improve listening, attention, concentration, and test scores. Developing a district-wide policy ensures that every student, along with their teachers and families, can reap the many benefits of recess time.
The Central Health Equity Policy Council worked to link area school districts with grants for playground equipment and improvements. The council has also acted as a convener for all area school districts to discuss the challenges of recess policies and strategies for successful implementation, gleaning lessons learned from Pflugerville ISD and Austin ISD.“Through policy change, the Central Health Equity Policy Council works to address the non-clinical factors that contribute to preventable deaths in Austin/Travis County,” said Mike Geeslin, Central Health President and CEO. “We must address key factors, or what we often refer to as ‘social determinants of health,’ to fulfill our mission to improve the health of our community by caring for those who need it most.”In addition to recess policy efforts, the council has led efforts to regulate electronic cigarettes, and is currently working with health care systems to implement a policy for routine HIV screening of adolescents and adults.