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 $2 Million in Funding to Expand Health Literacy in Schools

Working with county and community partners to better support all students is a critical component of our work at SDCOE. 

The importance of those relationships has been especially apparent these past 18 months of the pandemic as SDCOE teams have worked to address issues of equity from the digital divide, to access to school meals, to health literacy.  

COVID-19 didn’t cause issues of equity, but it has shone a bright light on the barriers to success facing students.  

“Our young people need the skills to live and embrace a healthy lifestyle. They need practice setting goals, communicating about their own and others’ health, and experiencing the building blocks of mental and physical wellness for today, and into and through adulthood,” shared Paige Metz, SDCOE’s health and physical education coordinator in the Learning and Leadership Services division.  

Metz has been working closely with partners at the county level, and recently SDCOE was named as a recipient of $2 million in funding from the San Diego County COVID-19 Health Disparities Project. She said the funding will support and expand SDCOE’s work to improve the health literacy of San Diego County students. 

Health-literate students can understand basic health information, directions, and services needed to make informed personal health decisions, which can contribute to healthier communities. As health issues continue to evolve, students need a safe space where they can get the tools to make healthy decisions. 

“Ten years ago we weren’t talking about vaping or human trafficking in schools,” Metz explained. “Two years ago, we’d never heard of COVID or experienced life in a pandemic.”  

This funding will help educators and school staff members continue building classrooms and schools where students grow their skills and confidence in health education, including social and emotional learning. It will also help students learn to think critically, communicate, and problem-solve health issues. 

Metz said SDCOE will use the funding to provide professional learning for educators and health education networks to increase skills-based health education instruction that’s aligned to the California Health Education Framework. The framework focuses on essential concepts in six areas: nutrition and physical activity; mental, social, and emotional health; growth, development, and sexual health; injury prevention and safety; alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs; and personal and community health. 

It also will go directly to San Diego County districts and schools as grants focused on health education programming to empower students with the understanding and skills to build physical literacy and address their greatest needs.  

The goal of the San Diego County COVID-19 Health Disparities Project funding is to address COVID-19 health disparities among populations at high-risk and who are traditionally underserved, including racial and ethnic minority populations and rural communities. 

UC San Diego, the San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative, San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency, and other community partners have also received funding to work on similar community-based initiatives to increase physical literacy. SDCOE’s efforts are the only ones focused on school interventions.