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City school district wellness plan catches attention of CDC

WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

The Buffalo Public School District's Wellness plan has caught the attention of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The District's wellness team will be meeting with the CDC Friday along with the New York State Health Department.  WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley says this meeting is unprecedented.   

“And now for them to actually come here – it’s unheard of. It never happens,” said Dr. Sue Baldwin, Wellness Coordinator for the Buffalo Schools. 

Baldwin and the director of the District's Health Related Services, Sue Ventresca and their wellness team have implemented a health and wellness program: Whole School - Whole Community - Whole Child.  

“We’re going to talk about our health services and having a nurse in every school, Epipen, asthma coalition, our dental – 4,000 students are pregnancy prevention, a $2-million grant a year, for five years with our pregnancy prevention partners. Nutrition, food service – we salad bars in every school and Farm-to-School grants and physical activity – we’ve got the Pep grant and it just goes on and on,” Ventresca explained.

The CDC and New York State Health Department will appear in Buffalo Friday to learn directly how the city school district implemented this wellness program nearly four years ago to make an impact student health and academic achievement.

“This is a system – a school system-wide change in the way we do business in addressing, not only student health issues, but unpacking that invisible back-pack of traumas and health issues that they carry to the classroom every day in order to relieve those stressors and come up with a plan. The ultimate goal is to increase literacy, health literacy, academic success,” Baldwin remarked.  

The district's wellness program supplies support to all students.  It even looks at high trauma needs of its students.

“A parent in prison, seeing a murder in your neighborhood,” Baldwin responded. “Drug and alcohol abuse,” noted Ventresca. “The work that’s been done is amazing because of the strong partnerships and really engaged parents who are involved in this.”

“It goes right down to school level where the teachers pretty much voluntarily step up to lead these teams and we provide them with leadership skills and the work that their doing, at the grassroots level, is really what is critical,” Baldwin stated.

Baldwin and Ventresca say there are still big challenges ahead in communication and funding. But, for now, they’ve gained the attention of the CDC and hope to ask for more support and financial assistance.    

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