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A descriptive study of school wellness policy quality and implementation, and associations with school district characteristics in San Diego County
Sonnich, Samantha Leigh
Madanat, HalaUline, Cynthia
Introduction Childhood obesity is a major public health concern. Schools are uniquely positioned to positively affect childhood obesity. School districts are required to have a school wellness policy. In 2016, the most recent federal mandate regarding school wellness policies strengthened the communication, implementation, transparency and evaluation component requirements. Previous research has conveyed the need to study implementation in addition to school wellness policy quality. Purpose The purpose of the study was to describe the quality (strength and comprehensiveness) of school wellness policies and implementation of those policies in San Diego county school districts and to determine if there is an association between them. Additionally, this study explored if a relationship exists between school wellness policies, implementation and district characteristics (total enrollment, percentage of students eligible for free and reduced priced meals and ethnicity). Methods This study utilized a cross sectional design. The WellSAT 2.0 was used to assess the quality of school wellness policies. A novel tool was created to analyze implementation of policies based on evidence from school district websites, and was modeled after the WellSAT 2.0. All school district characteristic data were collected from Ed-Data.org for the school year 2016-2017. Results School Wellness Policy total comprehensiveness score was 56.2%, while total strength was 30.4%. Implementation total comprehensiveness was 46.3%, while total strength was 25.5%. No significant relationship was found between the quality of school wellness policies and implementation or between policy quality and various district demographic characteristics. A significant relationship was found between implementation scores and total enrollment. School districts with a dedicated wellness coordinator had higher average policy and implementation scores than districts without. Conclusion Study results will help guide improvements to school wellness policies and implementation transparency in San Diego county by providing an assessment of all San Diego county school districts. Findings suggest that policy and implementation may not be effected by school district demographic characteristics, suggesting equal wellness efforts across diverse districts. Further efforts are needed to develop federal and state level funding and accountability for school district wellness policies and implementation.
Health Promotion And Behavioral Science
Health and Human Services
Master of Public Health (M.P.H.) San Diego State University, 2018
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