The Maryland Assembly on School Based Health Alliance, alongside Northwood High School, presented at this month’s Montgomery County School Health Council Meeting. The purpose of the presentation was to educate the council on school based health center’s in Maryland and the Hallways to Health program at one of their county’s high schools, Northwood High. Representing MASBHC, Project Manager Sapna Hencinski gave the history and background of Hallways to Health and what the initiative has aimed to accomplish not just here in Maryland, but also among the other states and participating sites.
Kay Sophar, Nurse Practitioner at Northwood High School has been leading the charge for the Hallways to Health initiative in Montgomery County. Kay has been instrumental in the many culture changes that have occurred both within and outside the clinic walls. For this presentation, Kay focused on the highlighting the successes of the school breakfast program, the many protocol changes that have occurred since Hallways to Health began in the clinic back in 2013, and discussing the new mindfulness and yoga program that has begun this school year.
Northwood’s participation in Hallways to Health has allowed the clinic to institute a culture change that has reverberated throughout the clinic and beyond. Thanks to Kay’s hard work, there have been new protocols instituted that required all students seen in the clinic to have their height, weight, and BMI documented. Should their BMI indicate that they are overweight or obese, follow up is conducted with the student and diet and nutrition counseling is offered to them. The school’s healthy eating culture change has been seen within the clinic by only having healthy and nutritious snacks offered during clinic programs and the hard work of the administration to remove the vending machines that offered high caloric, low nutritional value snacks.
The school breakfast program has allowed the clinic to address the high absentee rate as well as the high level of food insufficiency among students. Breakfast items were provided through a partnership that Northwood’s SBHC began with Nourish Now. Northwood had one of the highest absentee rates in the county and the school breakfast program, taking part in two ESOL classes four days a week, is helping to address the cause of the high absentee rate
The response to the school breakfast program has been overwhelming. Students who were coming sporadically to class began to attend more frequently, there was a difference in energy level among the students, grades began to improve, and students would even save or share food with their peers whom they knew also needed it.
For the 2016-17 school year, Northwood will continue to focus on the school breakfast program but they will also start a mindfulness and yoga program that will begin on Friday December 9th. Mindfulness and meditation sessions will be offered Monday through Thursday. Sessions will be offered as an alternative to detention on Tuesdays and Friday, there will be a meditation session during the life skills class on Wednesday, and there will be an open meditation on Thursday’s during the lunch period for both students and teachers. On Friday, Kay will lead an after school yoga program. Recently mindfulness programs in schools have been increasing across the county. Meditation and mindfulness for students has led to visible decreases in stress and anxiety and decreases in the number conflicts among students and the number of students sent to detention. We have already seen great success of mindfulness programs right here in Baltimore.
We are so proud to be part of the Hallways to Health team and for all of the Hallways to Health successes at Northwood High School. Thank you to the Montgomery County School Health Council for inviting to present and informing the county of the great work happening at Northwood.
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