Schools in Greenville County need your help by serving on a School Wellness Committee in a new initiative in Greenville known as Physicians as Liaisons in Schools, PALS. PALS seeks to support a culture of school health matching a physician with a local school that is actively working to create a healthy environment for students and staff.
A 2008 study of Body Mass Index (BMI) of youth in Greenville County Schools demonstrates that the children are following a similar trend as adults:
- 41.2% of youth were overweight or obese with higher rates among African Americans (49.1%) and Hispanics (44%)
- Only 20% of middle school students and 15% of high school students reported eating five or more fruits and vegetables a day.
- Parents report that 71% of children ages 6-17 watch TV 1 to 3 hours a day and 49% use computer on school days for at least two hours.
The medical community recognizes that decreasing childhood obesity will require public health interventions in addition to traditional health care, including policies and environments that promote healthy nutrition and physical activity. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the Institute of Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention all recommend that physicians be involved with these public health efforts, though few have found an avenue through which to become engaged. Schools provide an ideal setting for these efforts since the great majority of children ages 5-17 are in school, and a large portion of daily food consumption and exercise occurs at school.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What is PALS?
Physicians As Liaisons in Schools (PALS) is an initiative in Greenville County to partner area physicians with schools. For at least one academic school year, the physician will serve on the school’s wellness team to support efforts to create and sustain a healthy environment for students and staff.
What is the time commitment for participating physicians?
One academic year commitment (2016-2017) is expected. There will be opportunity to continue involvement in following years. At minimum, physicians will attend one hour training with principals and other schools representatives, and participate in monthly School Wellness Committee meetings. Involvement can expand to include supporting wellness activities at school (examples include: addressing stress management at a staff meeting, sharing your expertise or interests through monthly health tips, assistance with family health events, etc.). No clinical services are involved; physicians simply serve as a health resource to their school.
What does the training include?
The one hour training will offer information on school policies related to health and wellness, the latest research in childhood obesity, local and national obesity statistics, as well as nutrition and physical activity standards/programs. This meeting will also offer an opportunity for the physician and school representatives to meet and plan.
How will physicians be matched with schools?
Physicians can request to volunteer in a specific school such as your child’s school, request a school level (elementary, middle or high), type of school (Title One), or school location (near home or practice). Schools will be recruited starting in late April. Once lists of interested physicians and schools have been created, we will do our best to match according to requests.
Can the role of the liaison be shared among more than one physician?
Yes, physicians in one group can share school responsibility as long as communication between physicians is consistent.
Will participating physicians receive any recognition?
Yes, participating physicians will be recognized at annual LiveWell School celebration and receive a plaque to display in office.
We need you! Doctors have the opportunity to lead the charge in reversing the trend toward childhood obesity, not only by providing expert clinical care, but also by working within their communities to shape policies that create environments in schools, surrounding children with healthy choices throughout their day, and throughout childhood. Supporting a culture of health that makes healthy choices the norm rather than the exception helps create lifelong healthy habits and an environment where children have every opportunity for success.
For more information regarding the Physicians as Liaisons in Schools (PALS) program, please contact Catherine Puckett of LiveWell Greenville. firstname.lastname@example.org or 864-238-5304.