A Little “Healthy Competition” is Good For You… Building Social Health Communities To Reconnect Schools

By Dr. Nneka Edwards Jackson, Susan McLennan


“More than 1 million American children are at risk of permanently dropping out of school as a result of the pandemic. They couldn’t learn online and they’re going to return desperately behind and disconnected. They no longer feel a part of anything and few adults other than their parents have eyes on them. What’s more, all children are coming back feeling to school unsure of their place in it. They need to feel that they are part of their school-based community, and not just when they are in the building. Building communities that are rooted in the school but extend out into the community is critical to reconnecting students, teachers, and families.

Welfie is a movement that is focused on health and education equity through community. Our goal is helping families thrive. We do that by empowering them to take care of themselves (self-care), take care of each other (social care) and we create a safe, secure place for them to connect with health and education professionals (shared care). This three-pronged approach is designed to eliminate health barriers to education and address social determinants of health.

We believe our approach is uniquely matched to address the three themes of this OPEN IDEO challenge

  • Collaborative Teaching, Learning, and Leadership (Self and Social Care)
  • Communities Reconnecting (Social Care)
  • Collective Health and Wellbeing ( Shared Care)

This solution will focus on Communities Reconnecting

Our focus on Social Care is a focus on communities reconnecting. As schools reopen, community and the reforging of connections is paramount. Creating moments for community, curiosity, and joy is important. Creating a space that spans the digital and physical spaces that we inhabit is key.

Social Health Communities have been core to the world that Welfie is building. These communities are purposefully digital and analog, meaning tangible and in the real world, at the same time. And, as you’ve guessed, grounded in health

Now more than ever, the classroom is without borders.

Our health communities aren’t about spending more time on an app. They are about spending more time with each other, in what we call “healthy competition”. Imagine families and classrooms playfully competing with each other, tracking physical activity, wellness moments, minutes of meditation, and other health metrics to help lift each other up and promote health and wellness.

This healthy competition should be part of a school’s response to COVID-19. And this is why we are looking to embed a little healthy competition into COVID-19 risk mitigation. In fact, we suggest never calling it “risk mitigation” again. Who came up with that anyway? This is about family health, school health, and community health. We believe promoting and protecting health is a more powerful message than “preventing disease” or risk mitigation.

Through Welfie parents can create a family community and teachers can create a classroom community. These communities can issue challenges to each other. Imagine a “20 Day Screening Streak” where each student in a classroom needs to screen for 20 school days in a row to win their classroom a pizza party (healthy pizza of course – cauliflower crust anyone?). Or families competing with each other in our COVID Shield challenge where families that screen and test on schedule are awarded a “Shield Badge” that shows they are doing their part to protect their community.

Bringing this kind of fun and creativity to COVID-19 Healthy Reopening will help kids engage. And we know that when kids are engaged, families soon follow. Allowing this competition to be as high tech (through the app) or low tech ( on a poster board) can ensure equitable participation within schools and families.

Providing this type of playful structure to a public health necessity for safe reopening is just the beginning of allowing schools to redefine how they approach health for their students, teachers and staff.

We believe these social health communities can integrate into the health fabric of a school, COVID-19, mental health, fitness (sports, dance), nutrition, and more. Our digital platform allows for small group community formation and a place to connect on-line while encouraging offline participation, events, and activities for classrooms and families.

Welfie is a kid-centric and family-focused platform that is helping K-12 school districts deal with immune health (COVID, Flu, Vaccines, Asthma, Allergies), mental health (Social-emotional learning, behavioral health, growth mindset), heart health (fitness, nutrition) and health equity (social determinants of health, digital divide).

Expected Impact

“There is a question that we believe is important to ask students “Do you feel supported at school, home, in life?”. The hope that is across the board, the answer is yes. Welfie offers the opportunity to make this a reality by creating a unified, shared space for collaborative care of the student. That keeps the student and their family at the table and school and health professionals there alongside them. This student health profile can track essential student wellness metrics and make them available to select individuals (all managed by parent and/or student):

  • Safety: medications, asthma plans, allergies (student, family, school, pediatrician)
  • Health: weight, blood sugar (student, family, school nurse, pediatrician)
  • Mood and Mental Health: medications, response to crisis plans (student, family, counselor, psychologist)
  • Social-Emotional Learning and Belonging (student, family, teacher)”

Adopt & Adapt

Our school health tracker is software based and we are aiming for equitable technology development that will make it possible for families to interact via web app, mobile native applications, SMS and email. Increasing opportunities for participation, data fidelity and engagement. Districts and schools can enroll in our system today, nation wide, either by themselves or with rapid implementation alongside our staff (recommended). Implementation for a school can take as little as 24-48 hours and, for a district 1-2 weeks. Our school health tracker aligns with existing compliance mandates around COVID-19, asthma plans, allergy tracking, and pediatric vaccination schedule tracking. In addition it aligns with policy and curricular focuses on SEL, community and family engagement and whole student health and wellness that we are seeing across the country. We have spoken with superintendents, principals, school nurses and parents across the country, pre-pandemic there was a swelling wave of focus on student health as a foundation to academic success, in the midst of the pandemic the interest and buy in on this focus is higher than ever, and the funding available for districts to buy-in philosophically and financially.

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