Colorado has a reputation as one of the healthiest places to live in the country. Lots of skiers and healthy outdoors types usually come to mind. Denver Schools are doing their best to make that perception a reality. Denver Public Schools Student Services and the Nutrition Center have created a unique health initiative to bring information and medical attention to needy children in Denver Schools. The Nutrition Center is run by the University of Denver and is aimed at providing communities like Denver Schools with ways to improve the problems of childhood obesity and malnutrition.
With community funding from the CU Cancer Center, and partnerships with other community educators, Denver Schools offer a variety of nutrition and medical programs. The Center for Human Nutrition provides Denver Schools’ 3rd and 4th graders with classes on healthy eating and behaviors. The Denver School Based Health Centers now are present in 7 high schools, 3 middle schools, and 3 elementary schools. These centers are placed in areas with higher poverty and increased risk. Counseling, pregnancy care, and private health care reach the corners of the Denver Schools District with the greatest need.
These partnerships between Denver Schools and community businesses reach even further than school boundaries. The Colorado Nutrition Network used the collaboration to create an educational program in the Denver Schools community aimed towards at-risk residents. Denver Schools expect these programs to have far reaching effects that will impact concerns like dropout rates and student test scores.
Many reports linking childhood obesity to diseases such as diabetes make the Denver Schools initiative a program watched by many around the country. It is considered a national model and offers resources and assistance to other school districts that wish to implement a similar program.
Denver Schools also benefits from a University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center program that may contribute to the future health of students at Denver Schools for years to come. Each year high school students in Denver Schools can apply for one of the Summer Cancer Fellowships Programs to do research and clinic work at the Health Sciences Center. The National Cancer Institute funds this program that benefits many students at Denver Schools each year.
Denver Schools also team with University Hospital to provide middle school children with an opportunity to shadow a hospital employee for a day. While these programs may not address every issue that Denver Schools face, they are positive steps away from raising children who watch TV, play video games and eat junk food to the exclusion of all other activities. Denver Schools are clearly aware of the correlation between household income and poor nutrition. They are one of the few districts in the county that have taken active and effective steps to slowing down and reversing this trend. Teachers, principals and superintendents nationwide will watch Denver Schools to assess their results and mimic their actions.