Online Program

Wisconsin active schools project: Findings from a natural setting evaluation

Wednesday, November 6, 2013 : 8:30 a.m. - 8:48 a.m.

John Bowser, PhD, Population Health Institute, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI
D. Paul Moberg, PhD, Population Health Institute, UW School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, WI
Introduction: Schools play a vital role in encouraging physical activity among students. The Wisconsin Active Schools project was a 2-year program to structure school environments to include opportunities for increased levels of physical activity. Participating schools (n=21) were required to select 3 or more physical activity facilitating strategies they intended to implement. A non-experimental, natural-setting evaluation considered both implementation issues and student physical activity outcomes.

Methods: Evaluation of strategy implementation and intended maintenance (post-project) were assessed through phone interviews. Student physical activity (daily steps and minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity) was measured in the fall and spring semesters. Hierarchical linear modeling of fall to spring change in activity level was assessed, with stratification by level of strategy implementation.

Results: Strategies involving the use of existing school resources, rather than new resources, were more likely to be implemented and expected to be maintained. Student physical activity increased (p<.01) between fall and spring semesters (+635 steps; 6.8 minutes MVPA). Students in schools implementing 4 or more strategies had significant activity increases (p<.001), with no significant increases in remaining schools.

Discussion: This natural setting evaluation suggests that school-based programs may find more success by maximizing existing resources for their programs. Student physical activity results indicate that programs which enhance the school environment for physical activity can be effective with an adequate level of implementation.

Learning Areas:

Conduct evaluation related to programs, research, and other areas of practice
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs

Learning Objectives:
Demonstrate understanding of program evaluation methodology appropriate in uncontrolled natural settings. Identify factors influencing implementation and maintenance of successful school-based environmental strategies to enhance physical activity. Explain that successful student behavioral outcome is linked to adequate implementation of strategies.

Keyword(s): School Health, Physical Activity

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been serving as lead program evaluator and analyst for the Active Schools project and related school-based physical activity programs for four years. I know the relevant literature and statistical issues well and am completing my dissertation based on data from these efforts.
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.