New York Parent Teacher – Fall 2016: Health Advocacy

Health Advocacy

By Anne Ehrlich, Health Specialist

It’s the beginning of a new school year. PTA also gets a fresh start in the fall. You will be organizing your year’s activities, appointing committees, confirming your calendar dates, and welcoming new members.

PTA’s reason for being is advocacy for all children. From the New York State PTA website:

The overall purpose of PTA is to make every child’s potential a reality by engaging and empowering families and communities to advocate for all children.

The new school year gives PTA the opportunity to set your unit on track to advocate for important health and wellness issues. Your unit can set up committees to do this in safety, the environment, fitness, healthy eating, sports, addiction prevention/treatment, mental illness, bullying, and many other areas. The topics you address depend on the interests of your volunteers and the problems you perceive in your community.

First, form a wellness committee (or choose your own title) and appoint a chair. (Unit bylaws: The PTA executive board creates standing committees. The chair is appointed by the unit president, with cooperation from the executive committee.)

Next, the wellness committee decides what issues are important and chooses a small number to work on. For example, there may be a need for parent representation on a school district safe schools committee. The PTA could be the source of such representation. There may be a concern in your district over childhood obesity, lead in water, cyber-bullying, concussion, texting while driving, Zika, and other hot topics. Activities around the issues might include guest speakers, school or local PTA website and email articles, attending educational events, observing national or state awareness months with age appropriate classroom activities, and many more.

Next, the wellness committee agrees on a plan of work for the year around the chosen issues and submits the plan to the executive board. Work starts after approval by the board. The board should also approve sending the chair to region or state PTA workshops for training in advocacy and issues. Please be sure your issue is supported by Where We Stand

The wellness committee should set a calendar for completing its plan of work and meet to assess its progress. It is reasonable to change course if needed, with the consent of the PTA board.

There are ideas at NYS PTA’s Wellness Toolkit and National PTA’s Advocacy Toolkit for wellness programs that your unit may be interested in. It is not difficult to find ideas and facts on the internet. If possible, avoid commercial sites and choose reliable, fact-based sites, such as DEACDCNY State’s Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, etc.

Be sure to contact your Region PTA wellness chair for assistance and don’t forget to send your PTA news to the Region. Your Region PTA will celebrate and share your great ideas and advocacy programs.