Promoting Health of Children & Youth in School
We want to help create healthy schools. After all, a healthy school contributes to the safety and health of our children, our youth…our future! By working together, we can create the healthiest schools possible.
Videos and other teaching resources are available online to teachers, counselors and public health nurses to assist in teaching about good dental and oral health practices.
Head lice can affect anyone. Head lice are annoying and may cause itching, but they do not transmit or cause disease. Children and adults’ reactions to head lice can subject children to teasing, bullying and isolation. Reactions to head lice can significantly interfere with a child’s emotional well-being, social status in the classroom and ability to learn. For these reasons, head lice infestations should be treated.
The primary responsibility for control of head lice rests with the family and community.
Public health nurses can answer questions about the management of head lice.
If a child has head lice they can continue to have contact with others for the remainder of the day. The parents need to be told so that they can begin treatment as soon as possible.
If there are problems with the treatment, parents are encouraged to consult a public health nurse for information and resources.
If these are not effective or if you need more information, contact your local health unit.
Health promotion is the process of helping people to make healthy lifestyle choices and motivating them to become better managers of their own health. School-based or school-linked health promotion, called Comprehensive School Health, is increasingly recognized as an effective way to coordinate efforts that promote health and prevent disease or other problems.
A Comprehensive School Health approach encourages people to think broadly across all sectors that make up their school or school district, and to develop a coordinated, whole school approach to planning, decision-making and program delivery.
In some cases a school setting helps to establish healthier outcomes for its attending students. This includes elements such as the social and physical environments, school policies, support services, and the education/curriculum.
Promoting healthy lifestyle choices
Early detection of hearing loss, followed by early and comprehensive intervention, makes a significant difference to the quality of life for the individual, their family and the community. Visit the Hearing Health section of our Children & Youth page to learn more.
As children get older, the protection from childhood vaccines can wear off. Children are also at risk of new disease as they enter their pre-teen years. That’s why they need vaccinations too.
Schools can work with students, parents, and other community partners to develop and implement written policies regarding unintentional injury, violence and suicide prevention.
The BC Injury Research and Prevention Unit suggests learning to take safe risks by:
Using proper safety equipment, such as helmets, seat belts and mouthguards for sport activities
Educating ourselves and children about safety aspects of activities, such as poison prevention and water safety for swimmers.
Connecting with injury prevention groups in our communities.
Reducing the opportunity for injuries to occur through safe playgrounds, education about safe behaviors, supervised physical education and sports activities, young driver education, use of bike paths, training for teens as new employees at work sites.
Minimizing harm in injury situations by proper use of helmets, seat belts, airbags, sunscreen, community first aid training, accessible and available emergency response, MedicAlert bracelets (open in Chrome), and knowledge of universal (standard) precautions.
Injuries can also be intentional, as a result of violence and suicide.
Students spend more time in school than in almost any other environment. Having access to nutritious food at school and the opportunity to engage in positive food experiences helps students develop positive eating attitudes, behaviours, and skills that support lifelong well-being.
Visit our Nutrition & Food Security page for more information.
Children and youth are encouraged to live an active lifestyle with a daily balance of sleep, sedentary behaviours, and physical activities. Regular physical activity keeps the body strong and healthy and can improve mental health, school performance, sleep, and energy levels. Children and youth should aim for a total of 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity. The key is to find an activity you enjoy, and gradually build up your activity levels until you meet the recommendations. The most important point to remember is any amount of physical activity is beneficial.
For more information on physical activity for children and youth see these resources:
- Being active - Government of Canada
- Healthy Weights for Children - Shapedown BC- Kamloops area
- Physical activity (PDF) - National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health (NCCAH)
- Physical activity - Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA)
- Physical activity and your health - Canada.ca- Government of Canada
- Physical activity: Benefits of exercise for health and wellbeing - About Kids Health
- Wellness streams: Being active - First Nations Health Authority (FNHA)
- Classroom and school resources - Healthy Schools BC
- Elementary teachers’ toolkit - Active for Life
- Healthy schools BC: Grants - Healthy Schools BC
- Physical education activities - PHE Canada (PHE)
- Physical education lesson plans - Ever Active Schools
- Activate: Gender equity - Physical and Health Education (PHE) Canada
- Physical and health education Canada: Activate - PHE Canada (PHE)
- Physical and health education Canada: Programs - PHE Canada (PHE)
- School physical activity and physical literacy project: Indigenous resources - School Physical Activity and Physical Literacy
- School physical activity and physical literacy project: School resources - School Physical Activity and Physical Literacy
- Physical Activity Guidelines -Public Health Agency of Canada
- Rick Hansen Foundation – Resources for Inclusivity
- Inclusive playgrounds resource - Canadian Disability Participation Project (CDPP)
- Inclusive play for children with disabilities - Let's Play BC
Active school travel includes walking, cycling, wheeling, or any other form of person-powered movement on the way to or from school. There are many benefits to active travel including:
- Students arrive at school more alert and ready to learn
- Adds more physical activity into daily routines
- Decreases traffic congestion and exhaust fumes at drop-off zones
- Increases the safety of the school zone due to less traffic and more visibility
Activities to consider if the distance between home and school is too great:
- Park a little further from the school and walk the rest of the way with your child
- Drop off older children a little further from school to walk the rest of the way
- Walk to a further bus stop before boarding
Active school travel resources
View trusted sources of information for teachers, parents and children on puberty, sexual reproduction, understanding your body and more:
- Your Body (The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada)
- AboutKidsHealth (The Hospital for Sick Children)
- Teaching Sexual Health (Alberta Health Services)
- Developmental Stages in Sexual Health Teaching for Teachers and Parents
- Menstrual Hygiene Products and Schools
- Resources for Teachers and PHNs
Like all indoor environments, schools can have high levels of radon. Since radon is an invisible, odourless, radioactive gas, it can go undetected– unless the air is tested for radon. Radon is released from the natural breakdown of uranium found in soils and rocks, which is common within our region. Although radon is natural, it can build up inside buildings and become harmful to the health of students and staff.
Health Canada indicates that long-term exposure to radon is the leading cause of lung cancer for non-smokers. Because of the amount of time that children spend at school, radon should be tested for and actions taken to reduce the amount of radon exposure.
Radon exposure is particularly concerning for young children with developing lungs and a high breathing rate. The only way to determine indoor levels of radon is to test. Testing is easy and per Health Canada guidance should be conducted during the cold season for a period of 91 days.
For these reasons, our Medical Health Officers ask that all schools be tested for radon. To protect the health of students and staff, schools and school districts should include radon testing in their routine indoor air quality maintenance programs and educate students about the risks associated with high levels of radon.
Tobacco & vaping
Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death and illness, and 85% of smokers today started before they were age 18. All other recreational addictive drugs are banned for use during school hours. Vaping has also become a significant concern for schools. Visit our Tobacco & Vaping page, or YourDentalHealth.ca.
All public and private kindergarten to Grade 12 schools in B.C. are tobacco and vape-free under the Tobacco and Vapour Products Control Act and Regulation. This ban extends to all school property 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, regardless of whether or not school is in session. The ban also includes vehicles, parking lots, sports fields, driveways, courtyards and private vehicles parked on school property.
Our Toolkit – Vaping School Properties provides resources to school district staff and others who are working to address the use of vapour products among youth.
School compliance information is available to advise both public and private schools of their responsibilities for showing reasonable care and diligence with the Tobacco and Vapour Products Control Act.
The following resources are also available:
- Tobacco & Vaping Resources for Schools
- Vaping and Youth Factsheet
- About Vaping (Health Canada)
- Vaping and Youth (Canadian Lung Association)
- Vaping Products Information for Teachers (British Columbia Lung Association)
- Respecting Tobacco (First Nations Health Authority)
- Action on Smoking & Health Policy Hub
Since a child’s eyes are constantly in use in the classroom and at play, undiagnosed vision concerns can seriously affect a child’s abilities, success, and confidence at school.
Because vision changes can occur quickly during childhood and may not have any signs, children should be examined regularly throughout the school years. The earlier vision problems are identified the more successfully they can be treated.
All children under the age of 19 can receive free eye care examinations (optometrist and ophthalmologist) through the B.C. Medical Services Plan. However, some eye care doctors may charge a small user fee. Please call ahead to inquire.
Some families are eligible for financial assistance with prescription glasses:
The Healthy Kids Program
Information Line: 1-866-866-0800
Parents of school-aged children can contact their local health unit for information about their child's health including:
Free immunizations for school-aged children who:
- Missed any preschool vaccines
- Have a chronic medical condition
- Are aged 4-6, and grade 6 and 9
Health information on:
The BC Community Health Profiles provide local data for use by health authorities and local governments to support collaborative community health planning. They offer an introduction to community health data and present this data at the lowest geographic level available (census sub-division or local health area level, whenever possible), but are not meant to replace the comprehensive local health area profiles that are developed by Interior Health.
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