Ehrlich says a big challenge the Alliances had faced was getting onto the priority list of school administrators, who already have an abundance of demands.
"Administrators have primary accountability to reach state and national levels for education," Ehrlich says and do not focus so much on offering healthier meals and implementing wellness programs—"though we know that these things can influence educational outcomes. So we navigated the systemic barriers by working within the school system educational structure to make it easy to do our program. Our Healthy Schools Program mirrors the training and processes schools are already using so we can put our program seamlessly into place."
What makes HSP unique is has developed evidence-based training and technical assistance for schools to make its school-based obesity prevention program sustainable. That requires the recruitment of HSP managers—individuals already working at the schools—to drive the program and submit action plans.
"We found another barrier to these initiatives succeeding is they become too reliant on the formal leadership, like a principal or superintendent. So instead we try to build a champion with delegated authority of those leaders to cultivate the program," says Ehrlich. Relationship managers undergo preliminary and continual training, which is provided via telephone, webinar, email, and in-school visits.
The program calls for HSP managers to: