School wellness policies: Effects of using standard templates

Erin M. Smith, Kristen L. Capogrossi, Paul A. Estabrooks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Background: Public school policies related to physical activity and nutrition recently have become the focal point for policymakers to evaluate the effect of regulations on the childhood obesity epidemic. State school board associations have begun to provide school districts templates for wellness policies, and little research exists that evaluates the effect of a template on the strength and comprehensiveness of these policies. Purpose: To determine the strength and comprehensiveness of school wellness policies developed using a standard template when compared to those that do not. Methods: In 2011, a random sample of wellness policies from school districts in Virginia (ten locally developed wellness policies and ten template-based policies) was coded using a previously validated audit tool for strength and comprehensiveness. Data were reduced to a scale ranging from 0 to 1, with higher scores representing stronger and more-comprehensive policies, and compared using t-tests. Results: Overall, only 17% of school wellness policies met all federal requirements. On average, locally developed policies met five of six federal requirements, whereas VSBA policies met four of six, t(2, 21)=2.161, p<0.05. Both types of policies were ranked on a scale from 0 (weakest) to 1 (strongest); both types were weak (M=0.16±0.13) and only mildly comprehensive (M=0.37±0.16). There was a difference in policy comprehensiveness and strength between locally developed policies and template-based policies. Locally developed policies were stronger, t(2, 21)= -1.82, p<0.05, and more comprehensive, t(2, 21)= -2.5, p<0.05, than template-based policies. Conclusions: In this sample, locally developed policies were stronger than template-based policies. If replicated in large studies, these findings suggest that further research is needed about how best to support schools that wish to develop school wellness policies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)304-308
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Preventive Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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