Panel: Wellness in the Schools: Helping US Children Eat Well and be Physically Fit
(Health Policy)

Saturday, November 8, 2014: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Enchantment Ballroom F (Hyatt)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Organizers:  Leanna Stiefel, New York University
Panel Chairs:  Frank J. Chaloupka, University of Illinois, Chicago
Discussants:  Sean Corcoran, New York University and Jennifer Otten, University of Washington

Scope and Depth of Wellness Programs in Urban Schools
Leanna Stiefel1, Amy Ellen Schwartz1, Sean Corcoran1, L. Beth Dixon1, Brian Elbel1, Melissa Pflugh Prescott1 and Meryle Weinstein2, (1)New York University, (2)Institute for Education and Social Policy

The Impact of Playworks on the Physical Activity of Students in Urban Schools, by Race/Ethnicity
Susanne James-Burdumy1, Kelley Borradaile2, Nicholas Beyler2 and Martha Bleeker2, (1)Mathematica Policy Research, (2)Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.

While the No Child Left Behind Act and state and local accountability systems focus primarily on academic performance of students, most US schools aim to fulfill many objectives beyond improving scholarly knowledge. In particular, with heightened public awareness of high rates of childhood obesity, lack of adequate physical activity on the part of many young people, and inadequacy of nutrition for a significant portion of students, school-based programs are a popular solution for improving childhood wellness in general. This panel brings together studies that evaluate or analyze programs aimed at increasing physical activity, improving nutrition and healthy eating and finding characteristics of schools that adopt one or several wellness programs. The logic of school-based programs is clear. Children attend school for the majority of the year, where they provide a captive audience for school “interventions” aimed at improving their overall wellness. Moreover, as places of learning, schools are natural sites to teach healthy habits. Despite the compelling logic, there is little evidence on whether schools actually embrace wellness programs in practice and, whether, once adopted, these programs are effective. The first paper addresses the question of how many and what kinds of programs are adopted by schools as well as the characteristics of schools that adopt specific kinds of programs. The paper asks whether schools with students most in need of programs (schools with high proportions of obese, physically unfit, or food insecure students) adopt relevant programs or not. Then, each of the following three papers analyzes the effectiveness of a specific type of program. The United States Department of Agriculture recently revised the nutrition standards for the free and reduced price lunch offerings in schools and the second panel paper addresses whether students in schools offering more fruits and vegetable actually eat more or whether the food is wasted. The third paper evaluates a popular elementary school program, Playworks, and the environmental characteristics of the school that are likely to lead to success of the program for increasing physical activity. The fourth paper analyzes the impact of mandatory nutrition requirements compared to other interventions on the improvement in nutrient and energy density of food served in secondary schools. Together these papers present an overview of the kinds of non-academic programs in which US schools are involved and their effectiveness. They provide insight into how schools address their goals beyond meeting test score proficiency targets. While focused on the US, the topic is important to other areas of the world where schools have multiple aims and experience high rates of childhood obesity.
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