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School Wellness Initiative

The Baptist Health Deaconess School Wellness Initiative is an anti-obesity wellness promotion program offered by the Delta Rural Network Center at Baptist Health Deaconess Madisonville, Inc. in Madisonville, KY. The Initiative serves far Western Kentucky’s twenty rural Mississippi Delta region counties and offers assistance to public service area school districts, elementary, middle, and high schools with:

  • Establishing sustainable school wellness leadership groups to assess and address health and wellness activity and issues;
  • Retention of classroom-based physical activity beyond required physical education;
  • Providing professional development training for school staff;
  • Healthy lifestyle activities and presentations for students and residents; and
  • Wellness policy review.

The goal of the initiative is to enhance the culture of wellness in service area schools by involving school staff, students, parents, and community organizations. The initiative promotes wellness activity in 74 elementary, 26 middle, and 26 high schools.

The eighteen service area counties include Ballard, Caldwell, Calloway, Carlisle, Christian*, Crittenden, Fulton, Graves, Hickman, Hopkins, Livingston, Lyon, Marshall, McCracken, McLean*, Muhlenberg, Todd, Trigg, Union, and Webster. Populations in these counties range from 4,600 to 72,300 and total close to a half million (448,468 in 2016).

The Baptist Health Deaconess School Wellness Initiative is funded by the Delta States Rural Development Network grant program from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Federal Office of Rural Health Policy.

*Only certain census tracts in these counties are rural.

Key Benefits

  • No cost to schools
  • Helps school districts with ESSA Wellness Leadership reporting
  • Supports and assists local school wellness policy
  • Minimal time commitment
  • Incentives offered to schools
  • National recognition available
  • Classroom physical activity materials are provided to schools

Wellness Leadership Group Framework

  • Build Support: establish school wellness leadership group
    • Four bi-monthly meetings per year required
  • Conduct school level wellness assessment
  • Complete action planning for activity initiation
  • Explore resources needed for action plan items
  • Action plan implementation
  • Celebrate successes (promote accomplishments)
  • Ongoing review and promotion of classroom-based physical activity programming
  • Ongoing review of wellness developments and rosters
    • Update as needed

Classroom Physical Activity Promotion
(Ideally 20 minutes of daily classroom physical activity outside of required physical education)

  • Children learn of basic health principles and human organ systems.
  • 32,000+ elementary school students engage in up to 20 minute of moderate to vigorous classroom physical activity four times per week.
  • 75% of schools participating in the Baptist Health Deaconess School Wellness Initiative increased their 2007 and 2008 CATS (state academic tests) scores, demonstrating that 20 minutes of physical activity in the classroom will not adversely affect academic performance.
  • Free curriculum and training available to school staff annually.

Professional Development

  • Annual summer and fall training events for school staff are provided. Events offer continuing education credit on school wellness topics and ideas for classroom physical activity
  • For the 2017 – 2018 school year, two events were held with 49 attendees from school throughout a 20-county service area. The 2016 – 2017 event had 83 attendees.
  • For the 2018 – 2019 school year, three events were held with 57 attendees from school throughout a 20-county service area.

Wellness Tours

  • Promote healthy lifestyle choices in a multimedia instructional format. Presentations appeal to kids using age-appropriate videos, spoken word, skits, games, and dance. Presentations cover healthy eating, oral health, internet safety & anti-bullying, physical activity, and anti-drug abuse.
  • In the 2016-2017 school year Wellness Tours were held in 19 counties.
    • 62 elementary schools were served;
    • 4,052 students, and 260 teachers attended;
    • 29 community organizations participated.
  • In the 2017 2018 Tours were held in 20 counties:
    • 56 elementary schools were served;
    • 3,504 students, and 231 teachers attended;
    • 55 community organizations participated.
  • In the 2018 2019 18 Tours were held in 17 counties:
    • 51 elementary schools were served;
    • 3,289 students, and 192 teachers attended;
    • 24 community organizations participated.


  • 74 elementary, 26 middle, and 26 high schools in 20 far western Kentucky counties participate, have formed wellness leadership groups, and appointed school champions (e.g. teachers, counselors, nurses resource coordinators, principals, etc.).
  • kyhealthnow School Health Program Recognition Award, November 15, 2015 (from the Kentucky Board of Education Health Subcommittee, in partnership with the Kentucky Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance recognition for commitment to improve student health in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, November 15, 2015
  • The Alliance for a Healthier Generation Outstanding Partner 2017 Award for creating healthier environments that support youth in developing lifelong, healthy habits, November 12, 2017

News Publications and Features

  • Georgia Health Policy Center’s Community Health Systems Development, August 19, 2015
  • The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, July 15, 2015
  • The Ballard County Weekly, LaCenter, KY, April 22, 2015
  • The Messenger, Madisonville, KY April 18, 2015
  • KY Rural Health Associations Winter 2011 Rural Health Update Newsletter
  • Received tri-state TV coverage on evening news seven times and twice reported in the Louisville Courier Journal.
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