The Journal of Public Health Policy has devoted its March issue to the promotion of active living, with several articles focusing specifically on childhood obesity and schools.
One study examines the effect of federally mandated school wellness policies on 45 rural, low-income schools in Colorado.
Although time for physical education increased by about 14 minutes a week in the study schools, the research found the time allotted for free play at recess dropped by 19 minutes a week. The researchers said the less-than-promising results may have been due to weak wellness policies adopted by the districts, competing pressures, principals’ lack of knowledge, and too little accountability.
“With the broader society continuing to place higher expectations and demands on schools (often with little or no additional funding), making physical activity a higher priority in schools will require stronger legislation together with resources, accountability mechanisms, and local community involvement,” the report concludes.
Another study takes a look at a 6-year-old state policy in Arkansas aimed at reducing childhood obesity. The state is the first in the nation to monitor the body-mass index of all public school students and report it to parents, along with any associated health risks. Arkansas also set up an advisory committee to set school health standards.
Many people suggested the state’s effort would stigmatize children. However, the study says few such concerns have emerged and body-mass-index levels have not increased since the policy was implemented.
“The Arkansas experience to date may serve to inform the efforts of other states to adopt policies to address the epidemic of childhood obesity,” the researchers said.
A version of this article appeared in the March 04, 2009 edition of Education Week