Share Your Passion for School Health: ASHA’s Advocacy Committee in Action!

Share Your Passion for School Health: ASHA’s Advocacy Committee in Action!

Sandy Klarenbeek, MS, CHES, FASHA, Chair of ASHA’s Advocacy Committee

Some of you may not realize that ASHA moved from Ohio to the Washington, DC area back in 2011. The move enabled ASHA to become more active in coalitions and work groups based in the DC area and to place advocacy as one of the organization’s key goals. We wanted to make ASHA’s advocacy efforts proactive (rather than reactive) timely, efficient and responsive.

The Advocacy Committee is made up of ASHA members who work together to support school health issues tied to our mission statement, to transform all schools into places where every student learns and thrives. We work closely with education and health organizations to achieve this goal. We have changed the way we do “advocacy business” to become more nimble and responsive, and the Advocacy Committee is critical to that process.

Let me introduce you to these great individuals.

  • David Wiley is a past ASHA president and Professor at Texas State University;
  • JoEllen Tarallo-Falk is the Executive Director of the Center for Health and Learning in Vermont;
  • Kayce Solari-Hall is a doctoral student at Texas A&M studying Health Education;
  • Catherine Vowell is the FitnessGram Director at the Cooper Institute in Texas;
  • Ann Junk is a district School Health Coordinator in Colorado;
  • Linda Grant is a school Physician in Boston;
  • Katherine Ranney is an independent member of the ASHA board, a student pursuing an MBA at the University of Pennsylvania and a  Masters of Public Administration at Harvard University, and is very passionate about ASHA’s mission;
  • Kathy Ryan is a school nurse for the San Diego Unified School District; and
  • I, Sandy Klarenbeek, am an Assistant Professor of Health at Black Hills State University.

Since none of the committee members live in the DC area, ASHA’s Chief Staff Executive, Lee Lowery, represents ASHA at meetings and communicates with committee members, and ASHA President Linda Morse about advocacy issues and legislation.

Advocacy committee members volunteered to serve on the following work groups:

  • “On the Spot” work group. On an almost daily basis, a request is made for ASHA to support an issue. It may be in the form of a bill being drafted for committee, or another organization asking us to sign on to a letter of support. When such a request comes in, ASHA’s Executive Director, Lee Lowery, sends it to the members of the On the Spot work group, each of whom reviews the request and votes whether to support it. In some cases, their discussion leads to suggested changes. This usually happens within a 48-hour turnaround time. ASHA participates in truly cutting edge information and it is exciting to be a member of this work group.
  • “ESEA” work group. This group reviews and submits comments on information concerning the reauthorization act, which currently is called Every Child Achieves Act of 2015. ASHA has joined other organizations in calling for health education to be included as a core academic subject. This is also one of ASHA’s priority areas as a result of member input obtained last year.
  • “Coordinated School Health” work group. Another area of priority identified from the member survey last year was supporting coordinated school health. This group has begun writing a position paper to support the new Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) model and the coordinated approach of school health. This will take a little bit of time, but the process will be much quicker and more efficient than the old resolution process. Once the paper is approved by the Board, it will be posted on the ASHA website and used as part of our advocacy efforts. After this paper is written, the next paper will focus on school health coordinators. This work aligns with ASHA’s strategic plan.
  • Advocacy 101: Going the Distance for School Health” conference planning work group. We have a group of enthusiastic and talented people who will provide a 3-hour advocacy training session on Thursday afternoon at the annual conference in Orlando, October 15-17, 2015. This is your chance to meet some of the committee members, but most importantly, I hope you will consider becoming a part of this committee. It is a kind and friendly place to learn. This advocacy training session also aligns with ASHA’s strategic plan.
  • The annual Legislator of the Year award is also overseen by the Advocacy Committee. We work with the local planning committee to identify a legislator who has supported school health legislation and will be able to accept the award at the conference. Last year in Oregon, Congresswoman Susan Bonamici was delightful to meet, and sincerely and passionately supported our mission and our work. I am looking forward to identifying and recognizing this year’s legislator.

I’m excited to share that ASHA’s website has a brand new page dedicated to all our Advocacy efforts. You can view it by clicking on this link: Here you have easy access to ASHA’s Core Beliefs in Action which you can download and use to support school health issues. ASHA’s priority areas are also clearly stated on the page. You can also see all areas of support that our On the Spot work group has approved for ASHA support. You’ll also find a “save the date” for the Advocacy Forum at ASHA’s upcoming conference in October, and a placeholder section for position papers.

I will share a secret. I am not an expert in advocacy. It was rather intimidating being selected to chair this committee. However, I would strongly encourage anyone reading this to consider becoming a part of this dynamic group. We work and play well together. We teach and learn with each together. It is a very rewarding opportunity to grow and develop your skills while working with people from all over the country. This is your chance to develop your passion for school health in a way that impacts the future. If you are interested, please email our Headquarters at