As our nation’s kids head back to the classroom, they are being greeted by healthier school environments than students just a decade ago.

Chart of improving school health trends on nutrition, tobacco and physical activity

More schools are adopting healthier policies when it comes to nutrition, physical activity and tobacco use, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Image courtesy CDC

According to the 2012 School Health Policies and Practices Study, released Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, school districts nationwide are showing policy improvements in three key areas for health: nutrition, physical activity and tobacco.

“Schools play a critical role in the health and well-being of our youth,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden in a news release. “Good news for students and parents — more students have access to healthy food, better physical fitness activities through initiatives such as ‘Let’s Move’ and campuses that are completely tobacco free.”

Among results, the survey found:

  • more elementary schools are requiring physical education — up from 82.6 percent in 2000 to 93.6 percent in 2012;
  • fewer school districts are allowing soft drink companies to advertise soft drinks on school grounds — down from 46.6 percent in 2006 to 33.5 percent in 2012; and
  • more school environments are smoke free — up from 46.7 percent in 2000 to 67.5 percent in 2012.

The School Health Policies and Practices Study is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive survey to assess school health policies.