HISD joins U.S. Departments of Education, Health & Human Services to announce new initiative supporting healthy students, communities

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The Houston Independent School District and the U.S. Departments of Education and Health & Human Services joined forces Friday to encourage communities to link health and education services to better support students.

HISD Superintendent Terry Grier welcomed acting U.S. Secretary of Education John King and Health and Human Services Acting Deputy Secretary Mary Wakefield to Sharpstown High School, a model for health and education collaboration.

While there, they toured the campus-based Memorial Hermann clinic and Apollo Market — which provides free food, health screenings, and community resources to students and their families — and participated in a roundtable discussion.

“When children are healthy and strong, they are more likely to come to school, and they’re more likely to learn and succeed while they are there,” Dr. Grier said. “By offering students and their families access to healthcare, we are making sure each student has the best possible chance at success.”

The program was part of King’s Opportunity Across America tour, which includes meetings with students, teachers, principals, parents and community leaders in four states and Washington, D.C. Through the tour, officials hope to gain insight about what is working well and what isn’t.

During the event, the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services released a new toolkit that details five high-impact opportunities for states and school districts to increase the collaboration between the education and health sectors, highlighting best practices and key research in both areas.

“Healthy students are better learners and better positioned to thrive in school and later in life,” said Acting Secretary John King. “The opportunities we highlight in our new toolkit are happening already in some schools, but we need more action. Our hope is this call to action is a new day for collaboration. We need more schools, more districts and more states to take advantage of existing channels and opportunities to create healthy opportunities for their students.”

The program highlighted, among other things, the district’s Children Health Insurance Outreach program, which provides direct assistance to families applying for health insurance. In the past two years, HISD has helped enroll more than 1,200 students’ families in health insurance programs such as Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).