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Feature Story

January 2013

Pediatricians Make Recommendations for Schools

In the January 2013 issue of Pediatrics, published by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), pediatricians aim to inform schools about the importance of recess and of having trained medical professionals on staff.

First, in a new policy statement titled "The Crucial Role of Recess in Schools," the AAP asserts that both recess and physical education in schools help promote activity and a healthy lifestyle, and should be a daily break for young children and adolescents.

Safe a properly supervised recess offers children cognitive, physical, emotional and social benefits. It should be used as a complement to physical education classes, not a substitute, and whether it's spent indoors or outdoors, recess should provide free, unstructured play and activity.

The AAP further recommends that recess should never be withheld as a punishment, as it serves as a fundamental component of development and social interaction that students may not receive in a more complex school environment. Study authors conclude that minimizing or eliminating recess can negatively affect academic achievement, as growing evidence links recess to improved physical health, social skills and cognitive development.

In a second policy statement titled "Role of the School Physician," the AAP states that every school district should have a school physician, and every school building a school nurse. Ideally, the school physician should be board-certified in pediatrics, or a physician with an expertise in pediatrics, the AAP states.

A school physician can enhance student achievement by encouraging physical activity and better nutrition, and can improve student attendance by assisting in managing asthma and diabetes and paying attention to chronic school absenteeism. School physicians also can bring valuable health services to a school and can prevent potential district liability issues by implementing concussion management programs, and recommending climate safety standards for outdoor activity and emergency response procedures. A school physician can also promote strong alliances among the medical home, the family home and the educational home.

The statement makes several recommendations for pediatricians to support and work with schools in their communities to develop sound health policies.

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