Afterschool and summer learning programs are well-positioned to be key partners in a comprehensive effort to help children grow up healthy, providing young people with access to nutritious foods promoting healthy habits and physically fit students.
Until 2011, when NAA adopted Health Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) Standards for OST, the field lacked a comprehensive set of operational standards for healthy eating and physical activity. Since then, the standards have been disseminated to tens of thousands—and research and evaluation to monitor their uptake is ongoing. In 2018 the standards were refreshed, resulting in a streamlined, more user-friendly Version 2.0.
Version 2.0 includes the five content areas and an accompanying set of 48 standards:
- Content and Quality
- Staff Training
- Social Support
- Program Support
- Environmental Support
The standards provide a research-based framework for understanding and measuring a program's healthy eating and physical activity and planning for improvement. Implementing the standards and creating continuous improvement plans in these content areas will improve program quality and youth outcomes.
Because OST programs provide a host of support for young people, it may be challenging to find an effective, easy-to-implement healthy eating and physical activity strategy.
Tips to Improve Program Health and Wellness Opportunities
- Set clear, individualized, achievable goals and create action plans.
- Connect to community resources.
- Support program staff.
- Involve school and families.
- Integrate physical activity and nutrition into program activities.
Not all standards apply to all afterschool programs and some may hit implementation roadblocks. The standards are meant to be a guidepost toward which programs should work. Programs may not have the ability to implement all standards at once, but instead should develop a plan so one day their program will include aspects of all standards.
Creating healthy afterschool programs is an ongoing process. It isn't anticipated that any program will have mastered all items included in the standards, but rather will use them to focus the program on striving toward excellence.
For more about the history of the NAA HEPA Standards and to access Version 2.0 visit here.