Friday, September 19th, 2014

The Obameter

Work with schools to create more healthful environments for children


"Work with schools to create more healthful environments for children, including assistance with contract policy development for local vendors, grant support for school-based health screening programs and clinical services, increased financial support for physical education, and educational programs for students."


Updates

Action to support healthy schools through health care, food and physical education

During the 2008 campaign, Obama made a promise to work with schools in order to create more healthful environments for children. This promise focused on three areas of improvement: granting support for school-based health programs, assisting schools with local vendor contract policy development,  and finally increasing support for physical education programs.

Concerning the first part of the promise, we found that the 2010 Affordable Care Act created a four-year grant program that provides $200 million to fund school-based health centers.

This grant helps the centers provide free health care services to students, including dental and primary care in addition to mental health counseling, so that takes care of part one.

We also found that the Affordable Care Act established The Prevention and Public Health Fund. The fiscal year 2012 budget allocates $1 billion for the fund and $15 billion over ten years for various prevention programs.

One of these programs was aimed at "improving nutrition by increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables and farmers markets and helping kids to eat healthier meals and snacks in schools.”

In addition, as part of the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act, a new USDA farm-to-school grant program allocates $5 million a year to help schools get access to locally farmed foods.

These two program helps fulfill the "support for local vendors” part of the promise.

Finally through the last part of the promise, Obama pledged to increase financial support for school physical education programs.

While the House passed the FIT Kids Act in 2010, the Senate bill is still sitting in the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

If passed, the bill would have improved standards for physical education in elementary and secondary schools.

However, Obama did sign the National Foundation on Physical Fitness, Sports and Nutrition Act in December 2011.

This bipartisan act created a private foundation that brings private-sector resources together with the President's Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition to promote sports and activity.

Finally, we should note that President Obama hasn't been the only one working on these issues. In the past four years, First Lady Michelle Obama has been a strong advocate for children's physical health and fitness through her "Let's Move!” initiative.

Overall, we found that Obama has made children's environments more healthful mostly through programs under the Affordable Care Act. We rate this Promise Kept.

Sources:

The National Foundation on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, Nov. 5, 2012

American Public Health Association, The Prevention and Public Health Fund, Accessed Nov. 5, 2012

USDA, Food and Nutrition Service, Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, Jan. 2011

Trust for America's Health, Prevention Fund Fact Sheet, Nov. 5, 2012

Governing, School-Based Health Centers Reap Benefits, Feb. 2012

The White House, Child Nutrition Fact Sheet

USDA, Farm to School Grants, Oct. 19 2012

Trust for America's Health, Prevention and Public Health Fund, Mar. 6, 2012

Let's Move!, Summary of Recommendations, Accessed Nov. 7, 2012

More progress on healthy practices in schools

On the campaign trail, candidate Obama pledged to create "more healthful environments for children" in schools. He emphasized assisting schools with local vendor contract policy development, supporting school-based health screening programs, and increasing financial support for physical education.

When we first reviewed the promise, we rated it In the Works, since the health care reform bill that Congress was considering would provide grants for school-based clinics to continue administering comprehensive health assessments as well as treatment for minor, acute and chronic medical conditions. It's been a while since we published the update, so we wanted to see how things have been unfolding.

President Obama signed the health care bill on March 23, 2010. Among other provisions, the law allocates $50 million per year for the creation of a four-year grant program to "support the operation of school-based health centers." The bill also directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services, who is to oversee the program, to give preference to centers that serve children who are eligible for coverage under the Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance programs.

That covers Obama's committment to support school screening programs. But what about the physical education and food vendor parts of the promise?

On April 21, 2010, the House of Representatives passed the FIT Kids Act. The bill would direct local education agencies to annually provide the families of their students with information on healthful eating habits, physical education, and physical activity, according to a Congressional Research Service summary. The bill is now sitting in the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

The Obama administration is also encouraging school food vendors to make their products healthier. In February 2010, the companies Sodexho, Chartwells School Dining Services, and Aramark all promised to decrease sugar quantities within five years. The American Beverage Association also announced that it will start putting caloric information on individual bottles and cans, rather than only on the drink containers.

Moreover, the Department of Agriculture launched the "Chefs Move to Schools" initiative. The program is part of First Lady Michelle Obama's anti-obesity campaign, and encourages chefs to work with schools to educate students about healthy eating.

Finally, the 2011 budget proposal includes a request for $10 billion over ten years for the Child Nutrition and WIC reauthorization package. WIC is a federal program that helps low-income pregnant mothers and young infants by giving them voucher to buy healthy foods. The proposal has gotten mixed reception, however, as some critics argue that it would take a lot more money to have a real impact.

It's clear that President Obama's making progress on this promise, but there is still a ways to go. Senate has to pass the FIT Kids Act, Congress has to approve the President's budget proposal, and the grant program for school-based clinics is just getting started. We'll keep our eyes open, but for now, the rating remains In the Works.

Sources:

Culinate, The federal government takes on school food, by Kim O'Donnel, June 21, 2010

Chicago Sun-Times, Michelle Obama tackles junk food in schools, by Lynn Sweet, Feb. 11, 2010

U.S. House of Representatives: Office of the Legislative Counsel, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Summary), June 9, 2010

The New York Times, Diner's Journal: Obama Budget Doesn't Thrill School Lunch Advocates, by Kim Severson, Feb. 1, 2010

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Chefs Move to Schools, accessed June 30, 2010

Office of Management and Budget, Department of Agriculture 2011 Budget Funding Highlights, accessed June 30, 2010

The Thomas Library of Congress, H.R. 1585 index page, accessed June 30, 2010

Health reform bills include money for school-based clinical services

President Barack Obama has been advocating consistently for health care reform. The proposals under consideration in Congress include increased assistance for school-based health programs, particularly clinical services.

Bills in the U.S. House of Representatives would provide grants so the clinics can continue providing comprehensive health assessments as well as treatment for minor, acute and chronic medical conditions.

The money could also be used to provide mental health assessments, including counseling, emergency psychiatric care, community support programs, and inpatient and outpatient care. The clinics would have the option to provide additional services such as nutritional counseling.

The bills are still under consideration, so we rate this promise In the Works.

Sources:

Energy and Commerce Committee, final committee bill , accessed Oct. 22, 2009

Ways and Means Committee, original bill , accessed Oct. 22, 2009

Ways and Means Committee, amendments to the bill , accessed Oct. 22, 2009

Education and Labor Committee, amendments to the bill , accessed Oct. 22, 2009