Lafayette Parish schools continue health, wellness efforts

LAFAYETTE — School-based health and wellness teams in Lafayette Parish conducted 5,821 meetings last school year to help students find solutions to whatever may be preventing them from learning, according to a presentation Friday during the Picard Center’s Coordinated School Health Summit.

Joan Landry, the center’s fitness assessment project director, said the two-day summit began Thursday and allowed school districts to network and learn about what’s working across Louisiana.

The Picard Center, which offers research and implementation assistance to school districts interested in coordinated school health programs, partners with about 20 districts, Landry said.

Research shows a correlation between a child’s well-being and academic performance.

“A healthy child is ready to learn,” Landry said.

Coordinated school health takes a holistic approach to education and the concept incorporates eight components: health education, physical education, health services, nutrition services, mental health services, school environment, staff wellness and family/community involvement.

Bradley Cruice, health and wellness director for Lafayette Parish, gave an update on his school district’s efforts at Friday’s summit.

Cruice said the health and wellness team concept launched in August at 11 schools and rolled out to all 42 schools in Lafayette Parish in the past school year.

Between January and May, requests for mental health services totaled about 5,000, Cruice said.

Each school selects its team members, which typically include the counselor, an administrator, social worker and other school staff members.

A student’s issues may be related to his home life or health, and the “service-based” team involves the student’s teacher and parent in finding the root cause and solutions, Cruice said.

A team member tracks the student’s case and reports back to the team on the progress.

“We are here to help you help the students,” Cruice said.

The Picard Center also analyzes data collected by school districts from state-mandated student fitness assessments and offers support to give the assessments and to begin programs targeting childhood obesity.

Based on last year’s fitness assessments of students in grades K-12, only 50 percent of Lafayette Parish students had a “healthy” Body Mass Index, a measurement of body fat based on height and weight, Cruice said.

Starting this school year, the district will test a program in a high school feeder zone to help students who are obese or underweight based on their BMI, Cruice said.

“We’re working with the Picard Center on what kind of interventions: counseling, health and physical education. It will be school-specific interventions,” Cruice said.