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As classes resume, expert urges families to cultivate healthy habits

School started up this week again for thousands of Oregon children and teenagers, so we decided to chat about student health with Steve Moore, a Multnomah Education Service District nurse supervisor, for schools in the Corbett, Gresham-Barlow, Reynolds and Centennial school districts as well as others.

Here’s what he had to say:

What should every student have to ensure his or her health?

“We recommend that students have a regular health provider and regular checkups. Families that need assistance with enrolling for health insurance or finding a provider are encouraged to contact their school nurse. The nurse can determine needs and refer an enrollment specialist at the MESD for help getting insurance or work with the family to establish a ‘medical home.’”

What foods enhance learning and what foods detract from it?

“A healthy diet is the key to being ready to learn. Avoid junk food and make healthy choices.”

On that note, Moore referred to the federal government’s guidelines, which recommend a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains and fat-free and low-fat dairy products for persons aged 2 years and older.

What about sleep?

“The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and the National Sleep Foundation encourage families and students to follow these guidelines:

Get the recommended amount of sleep, which for school aged children is at least 10 hours.

Go to bed at the same time each night and rise at the same time each morning.

Make sure your bedroom is a quiet, dark, and relaxing environment, which is neither too hot or too cold.

Make sure your bed is comfortable and use it only for sleeping and not for other activities, such as reading, watching TV or listening to music. Remove all TVs, computers and other gadgets from the bedroom.

Avoid large meals before bedtime.”

How should students stay physically active?

“Activity is definitely a part of being healthy and ready to learn. Outside of school, families and kids can promote healthy activities by taking walks together, joining community or school clubs to develop social skills and physical activity, and limiting the time they spend in front of computer and TV screens. Parents are also encouraged to contact their school or district for more information about activity during school hours.”

What health habits should students cultivate?

“When a student is rested, eating healthy foods, getting regular physical activity indoors and out-of-doors, engaging in social activities and attending school, they typically attain a higher level of success.”

Are students having a harder time being healthy in the digital era?

“The digital area creates an opportunity for kids to learn about healthy foods and activities from smartphones, tablets, Wiis, TV and even video games. The CDC recommends that students limit recreational time in front of TV, computer, smartphone, tablets and video game screens to two hours per day. Technology should be considered a tool to advance learning and health and not a substitute for an active lifestyle and social engagement.

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