Healthy Students Healthy State Details
Healthy Future US began its work in 2014—by connecting with and listening to a broad cross-section of state leaders & experts. Ultimately, this led to Healthy Students Healthy State.
No template existed in any other state or country. So we had to develop it. But we tried not to reinvent any wheels—by learning from existing research & data and effective policies & programs from related areas. (We were also eager to avoid unintended consequences—accidentally making things worse rather than better.) We wanted to develop the best possible strategies, which meant that they needed to be scalable, effective, affordable and self-funding.
In Progress: Developing a Pressure Coalition for Funding
Healthy Future US has invested over eight years in full-time advocacy to improve student health K-12.
As they say, if it were easy to “fix” this, it would have been done by someone somewhere already.
We all need to prepare for decades more of work.
But we also believe that within 4-6 years, with effective advocacy including a powerful coalition to pressure for change, we can start funding and implementing Healthy Students Healthy State on a large statewide scale. We will also be able to support starting similar
In spite of our organization’s breakthrough progress to-date, including in the legislative, regulatory, and media/influencer areas, we are still too far from our goal of empowering future generations to dramatically improve their health—starting K-12.
The reality is, we need to operate in an era of increasing political dysfunction—even as our children’s health worsens.
What is more, to the extent that new laws related to children’s issues pass, they often seem intended above all to reduce public pressure–rather than to fundamentally improve things.
- “Fig-leaf”, “virtue-signaling” legislation temporarily relieves pressure on politicians— enough for their re-election, but without materially helping the public.
- For example, we often see “unfunded mandate” policy changes, occasionally with small temporary appropriations.
- As a result, new policies are often only superficially or partially implemented, and for a short period—leading to minimal long-term change.
Let’s face it: when your state has a multi-billion dollar problem (and multi-trillion dollar problem nationally), which has been getting worse for 40+ years, you are not going to resolve it with a simple policy change—and spending a few million dollars for a couple of years.
Arizona in particular is still ranked near the bottom for per pupil spending in the USA. Asking schools to do more without more funding seems cruel (yet it happens every year).
In fact, one of the reasons our children’s health trends are so dire, is that state leaders have put huge pressure on schools over the last several decades to increase reading, writing & math test scores—without giving them more funding.
So schools slashed physical & health education, recess, counselors, and arts education to focus on test prep.
Reduced red-state tax revenue, due to past tax cuts, further decreases potential school funding. In return, ironically, and as an example of unintended consequences: higher health costs will imperil future tax cuts and government spending by overwhelming government budgets.
On the other hand, by investing in better health: greater economic growth and resulting higher tax revenue will help us afford much higher tax cuts in the future than we will otherwise be able to afford.
We need to end this vicious downward spiral of inaction & under-funding leading to dire health trends—which ends up hurting virtually everyone across the political spectrum.
Legislators are not the only stakeholders, who have failed to act:
- Health leaders at all levels have failed to make health care costs affordable, and have not stepped up to advocate adequately for prevention through schools.
- Meanwhile, educators are staying focused primarily on test scores—even though students’ mental and physical health keeps worsening…and harming academic achievement.
All stakeholders have reasons/excuses for their behavior—yet the results are extremely harmful.
Sadly, we have found that having a strong, evidence-based, high-ROI, persuasive case is not enough. We must develop enough informed engaged voters and leaders, in order to pressure political leaders to fund what works to develop healthier habits and improve kids’ health.
In order to do so, in a realistic timeframe with limited resources, we need to develop a powerful “pressure coalition” committed to reform.
Fortunately, many large influential groups have compelling reasons to care deeply about these issues:
A combination of parents & grandparents, nurses & other health professionals, veterans, key business leaders, and nonprofits should be powerful enough to influence legislators adequately. Many of these potential coalition members have large numbers of conservative voters, who can shift Republican legislators’ votes and gain support for ballot propositions—critical strategies in “red-states”.
We have already gotten support from key groups, including the Arizona PTA, the Arizona Academy of Pediatrics, the Boys & Girls Clubs, & the YMCA. We are focusing now in particular on veterans, nurses & other health care professionals, and grandparents & seniors.
Future: Legislating and Voter Initiatives
We agree with legislators that legislation is preferable to voter initiatives. A long-term legislative commitment to school health & wellness would allow on-going flexibility and adjustments in policy-making—which voter initiatives alone would not.
We hope to accomplish the vast majority of our agenda together with the legislature. Voter initiatives can supplement legislation and/or voter-protect it, including legislative referrals of Healthy Students Healthy State-related propositions to the ballot.
However, we are committed to doing whatever it takes to improve students’ lives—so direct voter initiatives remain available, if needed.
We have already had significant success working with the legislature on the K-5 school recess law, where we had very broad bipartisan support.
Many legislators are concerned with trends in child health—including 1 in 3 teens with prediabetes, and growing adolescent depression across incomes & ethnicities…as well as major health-related shortfalls in military recruitment.
But initiatives are a contingency plan—if in spite of our best arguments and efforts, the legislature does not do what the people of Arizona want for our children.
We will work hard to both educate & persuade legislators and to pressure the legislature to do the right thing, to support Healthy Students Healthy State.
Healthy Future US is building on its existing informal network to develop this coalition. We are also fund-raising to invest in more internal and external resources to accelerate our progress.
Next Steps: Capacity-Building
We are now working to further increase our impact, by developing the capacity of the Healthy Future US organization.
Now that we have figured out:
- which scalable, highly effective, evidence-based policies and programs and other strategies to use
- and how to do so at an affordable cost, with a high-ROI investment that will rapidly pay for itself and therefore become self-sustaining
- and how we can get the legislature on board (with voter initiatives only to the extent needed…)
It is now time to scale our advocacy work.
To do this, we need to partner financially with a number of individuals and organizations—particularly impact-oriented donors, and those “early-adapter” stakeholders who care deeply about our children, and who figure out more quickly than others, how much they will benefit from healthier kids and lower health costs.
For information on nonprofit-investing in/donating to Healthy Future US, please visit our Support section.
And please complete our Contact form, so that you can stay informed, and be part of our network.