CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Schools are playing a bigger part in student health these days. Health educators from around the state are in Charleston this week for the 2014 Kidstrong Conference to talk and learn more about the subject.
Paula Fields, the Community Schools Coordinator for the West Virginia Department of Education, explained more than 900 people are attending this year’s event at the Charleston Civic Center. It’s the largest school health conference in the state. The goal is to give school health professionals the information they need to create and promote a healthy environment inside the classroom.
“If our children are not healthy and ready to learn, they aren’t able to learn often because they’re distracted. We like to think that addressing needs of the children will help them to be ready to learn and give them an equal access to learn,” Fields said.
Dozens of workshops are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday. They focus on everything from oral health to nutrition, speech and language to mental health. Fields stressed they try to tackle a broad range of subjects to help prepare school health professionals for whatever situation they might face.
The Department of Education is moving more toward a new concept where the focus is broader than just reading, writing and arithmetic.
“In West Virginia we’re working on community schools and that recognizes the importance of the schools and the community and that includes the parents working together to come up with the best solution to whatever the child might need,” according to Fields.
Presenters include Gayle Manchin from the West Virginia Board of Education to Dr. Anne Schuchat with the Centers for Disease Control. However, Fields said some of the best opportunities to learn come during breaks in the sessions.
“One of the strongest pieces of a conference such as this is we get to share what works with each other. Successes that are easy to replicate often provide support that is immeasurable,” said Fields.
This is the 11th year for the conference.