Online Program

LearnWELL, an initiative of Healthy CPS (Chicago Public Schools): Strategies for local school wellness policy implementation in a large urban school district

Wednesday, November 4, 2015 :

Jamie Tully, MPH, MS, Office of Student Health and Wellness, Chicago Public Schools, Chicago, IL
Tarrah DeClemente, MPH, RD, LDN, Office of Student Health and Wellness, Chicago Public Schools, Chicago, IL
Rachael Dombrowski, MPH, Office of Student Health and Wellness, Chicago Public Schools, Chicago, IL

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is committed to ensuring a healthy school environment for the more than 400,000 students in the district.  With an estimated 87% of students from low-income families and nearly 50% being overweight or obese, socioeconomic disparities are abundant.

 To address this discrepancy, CPS passed two strengthened wellness policies in 2012. Numerous studies have shown that while school districts are generally meeting the federally mandated requirement to have a wellness policy, there is wide variance in both the policy’s strength and implementation. CPS evaluated different wellness policy implementation strategies for CPS elementary schools, which may serve as a useful model for other school districts.  


The wellness policies were divided into 12 criteria and branded as the LearnWELL initiative. A variety of different strategies were used to help schools meet policy criteria and become LearnWELL schools. Strategy effectiveness was evaluated using a school-level wellness survey that measured alignment to policies pre and post specific strategy implementation.


Results indicated that specialized, tailored technical assistance combined with adequate funding is the most effective strategy for implementing school wellness policies. Detailed outcomes on strategies to implement school wellness policies will be presented, including survey results that show the greatest and least successful implementation strategies district-wide. Lessons learned and best practices for the implementation process will also be shared.


Conclusions will articulate key strategies needed for effective school wellness policy implementation. Best practices gleaned from this project can serve as a model for other school districts across the country.

Learning Areas:

Advocacy for health and health education
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs

Learning Objectives:
Identify the most successful strategies for school wellness policy implementation Explain the need for similar wellness policy implementation projects in school districts across the country

Keyword(s): School-Based Health, Obesity

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I currently manage the implementation of Chicago Public Schools wellness polices and was the evaluator of the survey. My degree is in public health and food policy, and my interest lies in school health and wellness policy implementation.
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.