The latter part of August reminds us that the new school year is about to begin. Now is a good time to prepare for the school year, making sure students are ready to learn.
Education and learning are vital to our community’s long-term health. Success in school and the number of years of education people get are among the factors that affect how healthy we feel, now and in the future. This is recognized by national health experts and our own Thurston Thrives community health improvement efforts.
Getting to school
Students’ readiness to learn starts before they even get to school — their success depends on getting there on time and in good shape.
How they get there matters, too. If they are walking or cycling to school, the travel gives them valuable physical activity. This contributes to the recommended minimum of 60 minutes per day of exercise for their long-term health.
We can help prevent injury to our kids who are walking or bicycling:
▪ Be visible by wearing bright-colored clothing or walking in groups.
▪ Help kids learn traffic safety by modeling safe behaviors such as looking back and forth at intersections and making eye contact with drivers.
▪ Use well-marked crossings and well-lit routes with sidewalks whenever possible.
Also, kids’ backpacks shouldn’t be too loaded with heavy books or school work. Help them keep their backs healthy by keeping their loads manageable or getting rolling backpacks for them to use.
Students who are involved in sports are required to have a pre-participation physical exam from a health care provider. This health history and physical exam help identify any personal health conditions that might affect a student’s safety during certain sports and which sports are okay for them.
For instance, students can learn about concussions and how to recognize signs of this serious injury.
Very important to students’ health is being up-to-date with their immunizations. Vaccines are critical protection for children and help keep other kids around them safe from diseases, such as pertussis (whooping cough) and measles.
Washington schools require the following immunizations: hepatitis B, DTaP or Tdap, polio, MMR and chickenpox. All of these immunizations require a series of shots, so over the years, your child will need more than one shot of the same kind of vaccine. The Childhood Vaccine Program provides vaccines at no cost to kids younger than 19. More information is available through WithinReach at parenthelp123.org /families/childhood-immunizations or at 800-322-2588.
In Thurston County, two back-to-school immunization clinics for children will be offered at no cost to local residents:
▪ 5-8 p.m. Tuesday (Aug. 23) at Tumwater’s Michael T. Simmons Elementary School, 1205 S. Second Ave. SW.
▪ 9 a.m. to noon Sept. 17 at Group Health Cooperative, 700 Lilly Road NE, Olympia.
Visit co.thurston.wa.us/health for more information.
Mental health and parent involvement
When you get involved at school, you help kids connect with you as a caring adult and they connect better to their school. You can contribute to efforts to reduce bullying and other violent behavior by becoming informed and calling attention to it when you see signs of it.
Thurston Thrives has an Education & Resilience team that emphasizes supports and partnerships that help young people in our community stay in school and graduate. The group, which includes many partners who are working with schools, is helping to ensure that kids and families get the help they need to deal with adverse experiences and to reduce the occurrence of trauma.
I hope you’ll take some time now and during the school year to help kids stay healthy and safe at school. You will be helping them to succeed personally as well as contributing to our community’s overall health.
Reach Dr. Rachel C. Wood, health officer for Thurston and Lewis counties, at 360-867-2501, firstname.lastname@example.org or @ThurstonHealth on Twitter.