208054 Local Wellness Policy Development Innovation in Rural Versus Non-Rural Schools in Arkansas

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cammie Marti, BSN, MPH, PhD , College of Public Health, Univ of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, AR
John B. Wayne, PhD , Sciences College of Public Health, University of Arkansas for Medical, Little Rock, AR
Due to the seriousness long-term consequences, many experts agree that decreasing childhood obesity is a priority in our fight against the obesity epidemic. Since 2003, many states have passed legislation to address the issue by creating healthier public school environments. Arkansas is recognized as a pioneer in childhood obesity prevention policy. In 2003, Arkansas was the first state to enact body mass index (BMI) legislation, via AR Act 1220, that required measurement and confidential reporting of BMI information to parents of public school children. The following year, President Bush signed the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 (CNWRA) into law. The Act expands the availability of nutritious meals and snacks to school children and improves the quality of food in schools by requiring school districts participating in the national school lunch program develop and implement local Wellness Policies (LWP) for students and staff starting in fall of 2006. Although commendable, such requirements can be taxing on local school districts, especially those in rural areas with fewer staff to implement such initiatives. Therefore, it is hypothesized that non-rural LWPs will be more comprehensive than those in rural school districts. This study evaluates the comprehensiveness of LWPs in rural versus non-rural Arkansas school districts.

In January 2009, an initial feasibility study was conducted. Ten LWP were obtained from 5 rural (<2500 students) and 5 non-rural districts. Wellness Policies were evaluated using the Robert Wood Johnson/University of Chicago, Illinois LWP coding tool. The tool contains seven sections, each scoring a CNWRA policy component using a 100-point scale. Sectional and overall scores were calculated and comparisons were made between rural and non-rural districts.

The overall feasibility study results indicated lower LWP scores for rural districts than for non-rural (52.42 vs 58.14). However, component results indicate considerable variation: Nutrition Education (R, 76; NR, 74), Nutrition Standards (R, 43; NR, 43), Competitive Food Standards (R, 52; NR 56), Physical Activity (R, 56; NR, 48). Physical Education (R, 68; NR 80), Communication and Promotion (R, 42 NR, 56), and Evaluation (R, 30; NR, 50). Rural districts scored lower in more resource-intense policy areas.

Data collection from the remaining 239 school districts in underway. The final results will provide new insight into (1) the role LWPs play in our overall strategy to reduce obesity, (2) the unique differences between LWP in rural and non-rural areas, and (3) actions needed to improve rural LWPs.

Learning Objectives:
Describe similarities and differences between rural and non-rural school district wellness policies

Keywords: Obesity, Rural Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Ten years of Public Health Experience at the local, state and national level
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.