School-based interventions can help students, parents, teachers, and administrators prevent and manage diabetes by providing programs, policies, and environments that support healthy lifestyles. Schools are also useful resources for increasing education and resources in the broader community (e.g., educating parents, providing a place for diabetes education or screening for community members).
Previous work in school-based settings has found:
- Many schools communicate regularly with students, teachers, and parents (e.g., parent newsletters, Channel One programming, student newspapers, daily announcements), which can easily be used to encourage diabetes prevention and management.
- Schools may be well-suited for diabetes education programs because they assess and store information on individuals (e.g., students, employees) and communication systems for these individuals are already in place. These settings make it easy to distribute individually tailored information to participants.
- School-based interventions can often be a more appropriate learning environment for children and adolescents than a medical setting.
- Diabetes education interventions implemented in schools have the capacity to reach a population that might not otherwise have access to clinical services.
- School children represent a captive audience that is eager to learn new ideas. Providing diabetes education in schools during the developmental years will reach students when they are beginning to make their own lifestyle choices.
- Success and ownership are maintained when schools develop their own implementation plan, work out problems, have broad involvement among teachers and staff and other staff, and reach their own solutions.
- Diabetes programs in schools can have a significant effect on adolescents’ food choices because a large proportion of their daily energy is consumed at school.
- Teachers can be effectively used in rural health education campaigns to implement sound health practices among children. Coordinated efforts need to be made between school personnel and health educators.
- Group education interventions have been primarily conducted in schools combining classroom-based education as well as specific activities and exercises in physical education classes.
- Since more than 24 million children participate in the National School Lunch Program, the school environment offers an ideal opportunity to modify nutrition behaviors and promote healthful eating patterns, especially among low-income children who eat the majority of their meals at school.
- The school lunch program and physical education program can complement and reinforce what is learned in the classroom and serve as the learning laboratory for diabetes education programs.
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