Generous Donor Helps Advance Whole Child Health Initiative

Pilot program to assess Louisiana students for health barriers that impair their ability to learn

Children are one third of our population and all of our future.--Select Panel for the Promotion of Child Health, 1981

Decades of research shows healthier children are better students—more able to succeed in school and in life. That’s why a local philanthropist, who wishes to remain anonymous, has invested $250,000 with United Way of Southeast Louisiana. The funding will help to develop a plan to identify and address health issues that affect a student’s ability to learn, and implement coordinated health and academic interventions in schools statewide.

Louisiana’s children rank near the bottom in health and education. 65% of our students live in poverty. When they go to class, many are already battling hunger or mental and physical health issues. Learning is difficult. The more kids fall behind, the less likely they are to stay in school—perpetuating the cycle of poverty.

The Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) model developed by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has had success in addressing children’s health needs in a holistic, coordinated way through educational systems in several states.

The Louisiana Legislature passed Senate Resolution 34 directing a collaborative of United Way of Southeast Louisiana, the New Orleans-based Childhood and Family Learning Foundation, the Department of Health and Hospitals, the Department of Education, Medicaid managed care organizations and the Cecil J. Picard Center for Child Development and Lifelong Learning, to develop a plan to implement the ‘whole child’ model here.

“This generous gift is a first step in a future launch of a statewide initiative,” said Michael Williamson, President and CEO of United Way of Southeast Louisiana. “Given that a healthy child makes a better learner, the goal is to reduce the number of school-aged children who experience health barriers to learning and establish programs aimed at evaluating and addressing the health status and need of each child.”

The WSCC model includes ten components: health education; nutrition environment and services; employee wellness; social and emotional school climate; physical environment; health services; counseling, psychological, and social services; community involvement; family engagement; and physical education and physical activity. The WSCC model also meets the needs for greater emphasis on both the psychological and physical environments as well as the ever-increasing and growing roles that community agencies and families must play.

Williamson continued, “United Way is already partnering with The Childhood and Family Learning Foundation. The CFLF’s pioneering Coordinated Care for the Whole Child Program is operating in 12 New Orleans schools and based on the WSCC model.”

Phyllis Landrieu, Co-Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Childhood & Family Learning Foundation said, “A consistent and comprehensive statewide process for preventive health screenings every year for all students in all schools could assure reaching all children in need. Schools already play a critical role in promoting the health and safety of young people and helping them establish lifelong healthy behavior patterns.”

The collaborative partners have discussed three to five pilot schools. They say sustainable funding for the pilots is critical because this initiative is vital to Louisiana’s future.

The collaborative must submit a plan to implement the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child Initiative to the Legislature by Jan. 15, 2016.