After years of poor report cards when it comes to health issues our nation's schools are getting healthier, according to a new report released this week from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The 2012 School Health Policies and Practices Study is the largest study ever conducted that looks solely at the health policies of schools in the U.S. It looked at several health measures, particularly the food choices that are available to students, the opportunities that kids have to exercise, and the amount of junk food and soda advertising that kids are confronted with at school and found that school districts across the country are showing definite improvement.

“Schools play a critical role in the health and well-being of our youth,” Thomas Frieden, CDC director, said in a statement. “Good news for students and parents — more students have access to healthy food, better physical fitness activities through initiatives such as ‘Let’s Move,’ and campuses that are completely tobacco-free.”

The survey found that more U.S. schools are banning junk food from campus, while more are improving the nutritional choices of the food they offer. For example, in 2006 roughly 30 percent of school districts prohibited junk food in vending machines. In 2012, that percentage had increased to 44 percent. Also, slightly more than half of school districts now make nutrition information available to students and families regarding the calories and fat content of the meals served at school. That number has also increased from about 35 percent of schools in 2000.  

Another good sign is the percentage of school districts that now have policies in place prohibiting all tobacco use during any school-related activity. In 2000, 46.7 percent of schools had such policies in place compared to 67.5 percent in 2012.

The School Health Policies and Practices Study also found that:

  • The percentage of schools that allow soft drink companies to advertise on campus has decreased to 33.5 percent from 46.6 percent in 2006.
  • More than 60 percent of school districts have agreements in place for shared use of parks and recreational activities by schools.
  • The percentage of schools that require physical education classes increased to almost 94 percent from 82.6 percent in 2000.

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