In 2002, The California Endowment and the California Association of Health Plans generously funded the California Teachers Association to develop the Teachers for Healthy Kids project. The goal was to address the health coverage needs of students through school-based outreach that promotes the enrollment of students in no or low cost health insurance, such as Healthy Families and Medi-Cal. Teachers recognize they cannot teach to an empty desk and student absenteeism, often resulting from preventable health problems, impacts school performance. Since its inception, THK Health Outreach has been implemented in school districts throughout California, resulting in enrollments of thousands of children in health insurance programs.
In 2006, Communities for Healthy Kids (CHK), a League of Cities companion project to THK, was initiated to work with city and county governments to develop health outreach programs, which used the THK model. THK works with Communities for Healthy Kids on an advisory basis and coordinates efforts between the cities, counties, and school districts.
The California Teachers Association and The California Endowment have continued to see the value and benefits of working with schools to improve student health and learning, so the Teachers for Healthy Kids project was expanded in 2006 to include an indoor air quality component, Healthy Air, Healthy Kids. As asthma is the leading chronic illness causing student absenteeism and teachers and school custodial workers suffer higher rates of asthma than the general working population, efforts to improve the indoor air quality of schools have become a top priority. The Healthy Air, Healthy Kids project provides teachers and school districts with educational materials and resources to improve the indoor air quality in their schools. The strategies provided range from classroom arrangement tips to impacting school policy. This project has been implemented in many districts throughout California and thousands of teachers have received the Healthy Air, Healthy Kids materials.
While the Healthy Air, Healthy Kids project has continued to operate with funding from The California Endowment, the THK Health Outreach project is no longer funded by The Endowment. Since 2008, the California Association of Health Plans, through support from the THK health plan partners, has provided the funding for THK Health Outreach.
Most recently, in 2008, the Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds, nutrition and physical activity and education project was added to the Teachers for Healthy Kid menu. This program focuses on healthy nutrition and physical activity and education for students, all of which impact health and learning. As with all THK projects, there is a state and local policy component to ensure that efforts to protect student health and promote learning can be institutionalized.