203622 Quality and Enforcement of Local School Wellness Policies Reasons for Concern

Tuesday, November 10, 2009: 11:15 AM

Jennifer Fay Mosack, MA , Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
Deanne Kelleher, MS, RD, CDE , Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
Ellen Mang , Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
Elaine Belansky, PhD , Rocky Mountain Prevention Research Center, University of Colorado Denver, Colorado School of Public Health, Aurora, CO
Deb Bailey, MS , Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
Richard Miles, BS , Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
Shannon Carney, MS, RD , Michigan Department of Community Health, Lansing, MI
Nick Drzal, MPH, RD , Michigan Department of Education, Lansing, MI
Diane Golzynski, PhD, RD , Cardiovascular Health, Nutrition and Physical Activity Section, Michigan Department of Community Health, Lansing, MI
Katherine Alaimo, PhD , Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
Background: Federal regulations required schools to adopt a district-wide wellness policy by 2006. Few research studies have examined the quality or enforcement of these policies within schools. An evaluation of local wellness policies and their practices at the building level is necessary to understand the impact of this mandate on promoting the health of children. Purpose: We assessed wellness policies and their enforcement in a sample of low-income Michigan school districts. Significance: This study is among the first to compare quality of wellness policies with school practices. Methodology: Wellness policies from 47 low-income school districts participating in the School Nutrition Advances Kids research project were qualitatively coded using the School Wellness Policy Evaluation Tool. This tool contains 96 items in seven categories (nutrition education, school meal standards, competitive food standards, physical education, physical activity, communication and promotion, and evaluation) on which each policy is scored, based on the comprehensiveness of topics covered, and the strength of statements. Administrators at middle schools in these districts completed a School Environment and Policy Survey, which contains questions regarding school practices and policy enforcement. Findings: On average, school wellness policies scored below 50% in comprehensiveness and below 30% in strength in the majority of the 7 scoring categories. Associations between written wellness policies and administrator-reported practices will be discussed. Conclusions: The quality of local wellness policies needs improvement. States can ensure compliance by legislatively mandating compliance with wellness policy regulations. Districts can ensure compliance by training school personnel and providing implementation resources.

Learning Objectives:
After attending this session, participants will be able to: 1. Demonstrate an understanding of the federal requirements for school wellness policies 2. Evaluate and improve the quality of a school wellness policy 3. Compare the strength of statements made in wellness policies 4. Assist schools in creating meaningful, measurable and enforceable objectives for their wellness policies 5. Assist state policy makers in writing meaningful legislation addressing the school health environment

Keywords: School Health, Health Advocacy

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am currently a PhD candidate in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Michigan State University, where my doctoral dissertation research for the past several years has examined the relationship between school wellness policies, practices and student dietary behaviors in middle schools. The information presented is part of my dissertation research.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.