Public Health Toolkit: Best Practices

Independent Health Foundation Fitness for Kids Challenge

Since 2008, the Independent Health Foundation has worked towards combatting the rising rates of childhood obesity in Western New York through the Fitness for Kids Challenge. This program challenges Western New York elementary school students in grades 2-5 to increase their physical activity and make good nutrition choices.

In order to show students that a healthy lifestyle is easy to achieve, this program follows the national "5210" goals:

  • 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day
  • 2 hours of screen time, or less, a day
  • 1 hour of physical activity, or more, a day
  • 0 sugary drinks a day

Each month, teachers focus on a different goal and incorporate it into classroom lessons, engage the full school with announcements, and hand out family newsletters with a related challenge for students to complete.

In addition to the monthly challenges around the goals, teachers are tasked with creating a healthy policy/change within their classroom or the whole school. With this additional component, schools have implemented school morning walking programs, healthy celebration policies, allowing students to carry water bottles throughout the day, and more.

The Fitness for Kids Challenge focuses on the whole school community by including a classroom component, an at-home component, and a staff wellness piece. With the direction of participating teachers, a new staff wellness program, HealthCheck, was implemented in schools during the 2016-17 year.

Throughout the last 10 years, the Fitness for Kids Challenge has reached more than 150,000 children in more than 300 schools. More than $140,000 in health and wellness grants has been rewarded to top performing schools and classrooms.

Lessons Learned:

  • Working with community partners can help to spread program messages. The Independent Health Foundation has strong partnerships with Buffalo Bills Play 60 Challenge, Western New York United Against Drug & Alcohol Abuse, Inc., and Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection.
  • Incorporating a champion from each school to help facilitate your program can lead to more school buy-in.
  • Being flexible with how your program is run in each building leads to more successful participation.
  • Health and wellness grants are an incentive for schools as they do not always have the funds readily accessible to them.
  • Many schools currently have a wellness policy in place that can align with your program.

Share Your Best Practices

Across New York State, health professionals are making great strides in improving public health through a wide range of initiatives such as reducing sodium consumption in schools, prompting municipal officials to move toward "walkable" communities and even convincing store owners to remove tobacco advertising. The New York State Department of Health would like to share and highlight your successes, best practices and lessons learned. Public health efforts come in all sizes and shapes – a one-time only poster or promotional giveaway or a multifaceted campaign. Some are more effective than others, but all of them teach us something about reaching audiences and changing behavior. Help others benefit from your experiences, large or small by sharing them with us to highlight on this page.

Examples of best practices

  • Campaign that motivated the community and community leaders to take action
  • Outreach to a hard to reach audience
  • Innovative use of social media or other emerging technology
  • Low or no-budget effort that succeeded beyond expectations
  • A slogan, logo or other branding that effectively communicated with and motivated an audience

If you have a story to tell that others could benefit learning about, please share your knowledge with us by filling in the fields within this PDF and email it to us at
Each submission will be followed up on and considered for a chance to be highlighted on this page.