Preparing for Transition

Ty Oehrtman, ASHA Vice President

Ty Oehrtman, ASHA Vice President

As we approach the end of another year, transition is happening all around us. There are the obvious things that happen every year at this time, like moving from fall to winter and picking out a new wall calendar for next year—will it be dogs or nature scenes in 2017, I wonder? Then, there are the things we can all be grateful for, like taking down campaign signs and putting up holiday decorations.

ASHA is also preparing for transition, soon we will welcome a few new members to our Board of Directors and continue work on a refreshed three-year strategic plan. In the new year, there will be new committee assignments and more to come on ASHAs exciting Networking Communities. Yes, there is a lot of transition; but one upcoming change stands out above them all…you know the one. In just a few weeks, Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. Regardless of how you voted, or your feelings about the outcome, we can all be certain that this change will result in new or revised federal policies, many of which will likely impact how schools and healthcare systems operate.

It seems like every day we’re hearing another announcement about a Trump cabinet nominee. We already know about the top posts for the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services, but there are many nominations yet to come. As we learn more about how Mr. Trump plans to fill critical roles in his administration, we’ll know more about what the future of school health policy at the federal level might look like. As it is, there are still many unknowns.

It is important for school health professionals to prepare for those unknowns that will come in the next four years. As such, I would like to invite everyone who is reading this to weigh in. I certainly don’t want to invite divisive political banter, but I do think it is important for the school health community to discuss how we will keep our issues at the forefront. The President-Elect has made it well known that he plans to tackle a wide range of issues such as immigration, jobs, healthcare, and economic growth among others. Where does school health fit in? The incoming First Lady has hinted that cyber-bullying would one of her top priorities, but that’s a far cry from the wide range of issues that schools deal with every day. I’m asking everyone who is reading this to take a couple minutes to click the reply button below and respond to one of these questions:

  • What opportunities exist to promote a school health agenda over the next four years?
  • How do we ensure that health promotion and education remain a priority in our new political climate?
  • Will current federal school health initiatives continue? How will we fill the gap if critical programs and services face the chopping block?
  • How will we come together as a community when policies don’t go our way, how will we celebrate when they do?

I plan to monitor replies over the next week or so, and look forward to joining the conversation as well. I hope that the ideas and thoughts we generate together will inspire renewed energy and excitement about school health. Together, we can transform all schools into places where every student learns and thrives!

  1. Jeanie | December 14, 2016 at 9:36 pm

    I will make a more concerted effort to communicate my views and wishes with my elected officials. We the people must use our voices to ensure the health of our future. As a private citizen, it is my duty to advocate for issues near and dear to me .

    1. Ty Oehrtman | December 15, 2016 at 3:12 pm

      @Jeanie, I think staying in touch with our elected officials and making sure they know what issues we care about is perhaps one of the most important responsibilities of all people. Thanks for making that commitment. I’ll be doing the same thing for sure!

  2. Wendy Sellers | December 15, 2016 at 4:35 pm

    This is a great question, Ty. I suspect that the challenges we have faced in the past as we have tried to keep school health high on the priority list will be compounded in the future. Hopefully, I’m wrong about that. Given the new political climate, I believe it will be more important than ever to approach school healthy promotion from multiple angles:
    1) Keep up a conversation with all elected and appointed decision makers: legislators, community leaders, and school administrators and boards.
    2) Maintain relationships within schools and serve on WSCC teams, wellness policy teams, SHACs, and sex ed advisory boards.
    3) Share talking points about the links between school health initiatives and academic achievement, especially linking it to fiscal benefits for financially strapped schools.
    4) Connect school health to the issues that schools and parents care about: bullying prevention, social-emotional learning, suicide prevention, fitness, etc.
    I also feel encouraged by the upcoming changes. Many people are hurting and will look to us to create school climates that are safe, inviting, supportive, and inclusive. Who better to advance this work than school health advocates and professionals? Let’s get started!

    1. Ty Oehrtman | December 16, 2016 at 11:39 am

      I love your enthusiasm, Wendy! I appreciate your thoughts on a multi-pronged approach and I agree, schools can and should be a place where communities can come together, to seek refuge from the political divisiveness. LOVE IT!! #ASHALeadership

  3. Linda Morse | December 15, 2016 at 9:08 pm

    For those of us who have been around for a while we must help others understand that this too shall pass. We must do a better job getting parents to see the value of school health for all kids and market stories of success in ways that have meaning and heart. Data alone will not win people over to our side. We must have personal tales to tell to address both the head and the heart. ASHA can help tell those stories to legislators and partners so we keep the faith during the tough times ahead. Keep the voices of kids alive and loud in all we do!

    1. Ty Oehrtman | December 16, 2016 at 11:47 am

      I couldn’t agree more! I’m reminded of a speech President Obama gave in the White House Rose Garden in the days leading up to the election. He said, “no matter what the outcome, the sun will come up tomorrow.” I love your idea of collecting success stories. I know many organizations continually collect success stories and some even go to great lengths to catalog those stories so they are available on demand whenever an opportunity for a legislative meeting occurs. I also agree that ASHA can be a collector of those stories. I encourage people to share the news of your successes with us. Maybe even in this blog. Perhaps we could explore ways to make it easy for folks to share stories online, through the ASHA website. Hmmm, seems like a fun project to take on!

  4. Sharon Miller | December 16, 2016 at 9:46 am

    As I personally reflect about the messages that my local school is saying, I know there is so much work to do at the local level. I continue to hear the importance of graduation rates and the importance of continuing education. Yep, those are important but those do not necessarily equate to a healthy student. I continue to make my voice heard during PTO meetings, school board meetings, and parent-teacher conferences. I also talk with my two children about what health means. As a mother with a child with asthma, I continue to worry about the raising cost of my child’s asthma medication, the reduction of school nurses, and how equipped are the teachers and administrators to deal with the asthma attack when the nurse is not in the building. I do actively research those individuals that run for school board positions and question them about the importance of health in the schools. I have no good answers Ty, just lots of concerns and that is why I continue to serve on the ASHA board and actively use my loud and very proud voice!

    1. Ty Oehrtman | December 16, 2016 at 11:50 am

      The power of the parent can’t be understated! Thank you for pointing that our, Sharon. Thank you also, for being such a strong advocate in both your own community, and on the national stage. You give great advice for a parent who is wondering what they can do. If one vocal parent is a powerful influencer, a collective of parents with a common voice is an unstoppable force! Let’s band together and make our voices heard! #ASHALeadership

  5. Erin Hutzelman | December 16, 2016 at 2:54 pm

    I love how you brought up the idea of celebration. Not only should we celebrate when policies go our way, but we should celebrate the good things we do despite the policies. I think School Health needs to celebrate even the little victories and like Linda said, share those stories!

    1. Ty Oehrtman | December 16, 2016 at 7:17 pm

      Thanks, Erin! I’m definitely seeing some themes in the discussion, sharing our stories and celebrating our successes is one theme. I enjoy how you phrased it, “celebrate the good things despite the policies.” I’m reminded of the stellar work so many schools did around improving the nutritional quality of competitive foods in schools way back before there were federal regulations about that. I think that’s the key, federal laws and regulations tend to set minimum expectations, there is nothing that stops local schools and communities from setting higher expectations for themselves. When we share our successes, I think it is important to showcase not just the positive health outcomes, but also the academic outcomes.

  6. Linda | December 19, 2016 at 10:22 pm

    Another note– We must educate young professionals and newbies to the field about the past and what we have done to deal with those who oppose health education (and not just sex ed). I have had parents and organized groups oppose ATOD education. Some oppose educating young people about health in general because it is a parental decision. Some oppose access to health care in schools because they equate care with sexual health issues. Some people oppose access to health care because they fear government intervention. Young professionals need to understand the web of connections of organizations that oppose school health programs and further, they need to question and disprove the data that is often used to influence legislators and parents. We must not forget that the opposition has always been there–it may just get better organized and louder and may have a wider and more powerful audience. We must be organized, strategic, and stay focused on the mission. The old “two steps forward, three steps back” may very well apply for the next few years but we must not get discouraged. Advocacy begins “at home.”

    1. Ty Oehrtman | December 20, 2016 at 4:07 pm

      This is a really great point! We have heard a lot about the “vocal minority” in this election cycle. With regard to health education, we need to find ways to not be the silent majority. Countless national surveys have consistently demonstrated broad support for health education in schools. When the vocal minority calls out in opposition to health education, for fear of conversations about sex or drugs, we must not let it be forgotten that the majority of parents support comprehensive health education. Thanks for adding to the conversation, Linda!

      1. Elisa Beth McNeill | January 13, 2017 at 5:56 pm

        I’ve enjoyed reading the comments posted here. One theme is dominate, the hope of health educators cannot be squelched. The need for us to stand together as a profession and “make some noise” is clearly articulated in these posts. We must continue to be the squeaky wheel representing voices for children. This has always been our task, but now more than ever, we must be tenacious in our efforts to promote the WSCC and capitalize on the potential opportunities associated with ESSA

        1. Ty Oehrtman | January 16, 2017 at 11:39 am

          I couldn’t agree more! Thanks, Beth!

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