Changes in Local School Policies and Practices in Washington State After an Unfunded Physical Activity and Nutrition Mandate

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  • Introduction: Policies and practices in schools may create environments that encourage and reinforce healthy behaviors and are thus a means for stemming the rising rates of childhood obesity. We assessed the effect of a 2005 statewide school physical activity and nutrition mandate on policies and practices in middle and high schools in Washington State. Methods: We used 2002, 2004, and 2006 statewide School Health Profiles survey data from Washington, with Oregon as a comparison group, to create longitudinal linear regression models to describe changes in relevant school policies after the Washington statewide mandate. Policy area composite measures were generated by principal component factor analysis from survey questions about multiple binary measure policy and practice. Results: Relative to expected trends without the mandate, we found significant percentage-point increases in various policies, including restricted access to competitive foods in middle and high schools (increased by 18.8-20.0 percentage points); school food practices (increased by 10.4 percentage points in middle schools); and eliminating exemptions from physical education (PE) for sports (16.6 percentage-point increase for middle schools), exemptions from PE for community activities (12.8 and 14.4 percentage-point increases for middle and high schools, respectively) and exemptions from PE for academics (18.1 percentage-point increase for middle schools). Conclusion: Our results suggest that a statewide mandate had a modest effect on increasing physical activity and nutrition policies and practices in schools. Government policy is potentially an effective tool for addressing the childhood obesity epidemic through improvements in school physical activity and nutrition environments.
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  • Boles M, Dilley JA, Dent C, Elman MR, Duncan SC, Johnson DB. Changes in local school policies and practices in Washington State after an unfunded physical activity and nutrition mandate. Preventing Chronic Disease 2011;8(6).
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  • 8
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  • 6
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  • This study was supported by a grant (no. 5R03CA129964) from the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health.
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