Effects of State and Federal Legislation on a Sample of Local Public School District Wellness Policy Scores over Time
Kaufman, Alexandra Elizabeth
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Background: School district wellness policies (SDWP) may provide guidance to schools seeking to improve and maintain healthy learning environments throughout the United States. State and federal legislation and regulations influence the creation, maintenance, and revision of local SDWP. Objectives: To examine the strength and comprehensiveness of local SDWP content categories, the changes in those characteristics over time, and the associations between changes in SDWP over time and concurrent changes to state and federal legislation and regulation. Methods: An observational sample of 19 SDWPs that were in effect over three periods between 2006 - 2014 within a single county of Washington State were scored using the Wellness School Assessment Tool (WellSAT). Content areas of strength and comprehensiveness were compared across time periods. Policy events were divided into three time periods: 2004-2006, 2006- 2010, and 2011-2014. Results: All districts released a SDWP within the 2004-2006 time period when state and federal legislation required the adoption of the policies; in general, more districts updated policies between 2011 and 2014 when changes were required and policies were monitored by state education agencies than in the previous period when policy updates were suggested but not required. SDWP often did not meet recommendations for optimal school health. Conclusions: Because they influence the development and implementation of local school district wellness policies, changes to federal and state policies and practices offer opportunities to improve the daily environments of school children. This study demonstrates that clear and definitive legislative language is required to encourage positive change in SDWP.
- Nutritional sciences