223891 Education's Role in Preventing Childhood Obesity: What are the most effective types of school wellness policies?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010 : 9:15 AM - 9:30 AM

Rebecca L. Utz, PhD , Sociology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT
Edward Coffield, PhD Candidate , Department of Economics, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT
Julie Metos, MPH, RD , Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT
Norman J. Waitzman, PhD , Economics, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT
Eric N. Reither, PhD , Sociology, Utah State University, Logan, UT
The school is a setting where children spend much time; it provides an environment in which they learn, model, and choose behaviors that may affect their risk for obesity. This analysis explores the role of specific school wellness policies on a child's risk for obesity during adolescence. We explore the relative effects associated with classroom-based policies (e.g., curriculum-based wellness initiatives), policies that regulate physical fitness during the school day (e.g., minutes of PE offered or required), policies that influence food choices (e.g., vending & competitive foods), and programs that attest to the district's overall commitment to wellness (e.g., restrictions on food-based fundraising activities). We use a population-based sample of 51,475 children born in Utah from 1990 to 1992 and age 16 in 2006 to 2008. All analyses control for the sociodemographic profile of districts, as well as the sociodemographic resources of the child/family. Ceteris paribus, school wellness policies implemented at the district level do have the potential to reduce the risk of adolescent obesity. The most effective types of policies appear to be those that attest to the school's overall commitment to school wellness (up to 25% reduction in obesity prevalence), whereas the least effective are those that are classroom-based (less than 10% reduction in obesity prevalence). Results suggest that if schools are to be successful in managing childhood obesity in America, they ought to adopt a comprehensive commitment to wellness, rather than simply changing an isolated aspect of the food, activity, or classroom environment.

Learning Areas:
Chronic disease management and prevention
Conduct evaluation related to programs, research, and other areas of practice
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related public policy
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe the association between a school district's wellness policies and the prevalence of obesity/overweight among students. Compare the relative effect (in terms of obesity/overweight risk among students) of different types of school wellness policies.

Keywords: Obesity, Wellness

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have linked the data sources required to do this analysis, and have been involved in all aspects of the statistical analysis.
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.

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