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Lincoln Public Schools:
Star Wars, Pokémon, Superheroes and Success

What do you get when you mix Star Wars, Pokémon, Superheroes and Wellness? Success and a whole lot of fun.  Lincoln Public Schools supports wellness for over 8,000 staff and 40,000+ students throughout the 60-location school system in Lincoln, Nebraska. 

The focus of LPS is to build a culture of wellness through interactive initiatives, policy and cultural change. Success is measured through changes in student obesity and fitness levels, quarterly LPS Wellness Challenge engagement, personal health assessment engagement, and annual district wellness investigations measuring social school culture change.  

Quarterly, district-wide challenges are the pep rally to building a culture of wellness in a complex, diverse school system. To be most effective, programs need to address both student and staff health. Recognizing this, quarterly challenges are built jointly for students and staff.  They focus on the six dimensions of wellness, including nutrition, activity, social/emotional health, sleep and more. Each school has at least one wellness champion involved in monthly district joint meetings where best practices are shared. 

Challenges combine popular culture themes with wellness to attract participation by students and staff who want to be part of what’s happening in the social world and may stumble into taking care of their health. This year’s themes include Pokémon, superheroes, March Madness and retro gaming. 

Students in Lincoln have significantly decreased obesity levels over each of the past five years, reaching the Healthy People 2020 goal six years ahead of schedule. Obesity rates improved from 17.2% in 2010 to 15.4% in 2014-15 data. 2015-2016 Obesity rates dropped to 15.2%, though state guidelines slightly shifted data collected.

Fitness: Children passing the aerobic fitness test in Lincoln Public Schools have increased from 68.4% in 2010-2011 to 77.4% in 2015-2016.  Data has shown significant correlation between student fitness and academic success and was published in the Journal of Pediatrics in 2013. Cultural change has been impacted by this data. 

In 2015-16, 25,800+ challenges were returned by students and staff. Over 64% of eligible staff completed the personal health assessment in 2016 without a high financial incentive. Engagement has increased significantly from 40% in 2010, reflecting cultural and behavioral change.  Weekly wellness communications are exchanged with staff and through social media. 

Wellness success of LPS cannot be fully represented without mentioning both our school-based leadership of Wellness Champions. Wellness Champions represent their schools in district meetings and share wellness resources with their school wellness committees. Each school has between one to three wellness champions to meet the needs of their population.

Community partners are vital to our joint success within the community and especially working within a school system as large as LPS. Much of our success would be impossible without our multiple partnerships. From before and after school programming, to donations from businesses, to services, grants and donations from generous benefactors, we are endlessly grateful to those who take our efforts to the next level. 

Interested in learning more about all that is happening in LPS? Follow and “like” us on Facebook, Twitter (@LPSWellness), or check our website.  Many segments are also featured on 10 Health Lincoln, You Tube and social media channels. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently chose an LPS video series to feature on a national webinar as an example of effective messaging.