Promoting Healthy Eating and Physical Activity in K – 12: An Independent Audit

Promoting Healthy Eating and Physical Activity in K – 12: An Independent Audit


Thanks for joining us. In this audit, we looked at whether the Ministries
of Health and Education are working together to effectively oversee public school programs
and policies that promote healthy eating and physical activity for children and youth in
kindergarten to grade 12. Overall, we found the ministries were not. They have worked together to develop the majority
of programs and policies, but fall short on their joint work to support the implementation
of those programs and policies. The greatest opportunity for shaping the future
health of the people of B.C. is through positively influencing the health and wellbeing of children
and youth. Schools are an ideal setting for promoting
overall healthy living because they can reach almost every child in the province, and by
extension, their families. Also, education in general, is strongly linked
to health. Research has shown that influencing the health
and well-being of children and youth is important for two main reasons: first, it makes them
better learners, and second, it increases the likelihood of them becoming healthy adults. By increasing healthy eating and physical
activity we can reduce chronic disease, improve quality of life and lessen the burden on our
health care system. In B.C., chronic disease affects one in three
people and their treatment represents the largest burden to the health care system,
using approximately 80% of the combined Medical Services Plan, PharmaCare and acute care budgets. Schools can support students’ efforts to
be healthy and active by providing opportunities to both learn about and practice healthy eating
and physical activity. This audit found that the Ministries of Health
and Education have not communicated shared, overarching direction to the health authorities
and school districts to promote healthy eating and physical activity in public schools. In many cases, this has contributed to school
districts and schools not prioritizing the implementation of healthy eating and physical
activity initiatives. The audit also found that the ministries need
to work together more to jointly identify and address barriers to the implementation
of healthy eating and physical activity initiatives. We found that the Ministry of Health wasn’t
monitoring most of its programs to know if they are effective. For example, it has scaled back its largest
healthy eating program, (the BC School Fruit and Vegetable Nutritional Program) by significantly
reducing the number of servings of fruits and vegetables provided to students at school. These changes may have impacted the Ministry’s
ability to reach its overall goal of improving the nutritional health of children in B.C. We also found that improvements were needed
with the Ministry of Education’s monitoring of policies that support healthy eating and
physical activity. For example, the ministry needs to improve
its monitoring of school meal programs. The Ministry of Education provides school
districts with annual funding to support vulnerable students, and most districts use a portion
of this funding to provide meal programs to these students. We found inconsistencies with how the ministry
estimates the funding needed by school districts to support these vulnerable students. We learned that in some cases, school districts
weren’t receiving enough funding to support their school meal programs. In conclusion, the ministries of Health and
Education have come together to develop healthy eating and physical activity initiatives in
public schools but are failing to provide enough support for the implementation of these
initiatives. We made eight recommendations in this report
to improve the ministries’ oversight of healthy eating and physical activity initiatives
for children and youth in kindergarten to grade 12. We’d like to encourage you to read this
report because it impacts so many people in British Columbia. It is available on our website at www.bcauditor.com. Thanks for joining us for our report summary.