Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bridging the Gap: Key Findings and School Policies and Practices to Improve Health and Prevent Obesity

In April 2011, Bridging the Gap released a report describing the findings of one of the most comprehensive nation-wide health surveys of secondary schools to date. The report also includes policy recommendations for preventing childhood obesity, encourage healthy lifestyles and improving health-related policies and practices in secondary schools. The report concluded that although secondary schools have been making an effort to offer students healthier food options, most students have easy access to unhealthy junk foods and sugar excessive drinks, especially at the high school level. Seventy-eight percent of U.S. middle school students and eighty-four percent of high school students were in a district or school that had adopted a wellness policy by 2008. However, far fewer schools and districts actually implemented and adhered to these wellness provisions, such as setting goals for physical activity or nutrition guidelines for foods available on campus.

Some important policy recommendations described in the report included the use of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 to increase federal reimbursement rates for school meals, the number of schools providing menus with caloric information to parents and training for and collaboration with food service providers and staff. Moreover, policymakers can explore improving physical education requirements, increasing opportunities for physical activity outside of physical education classes and incentivizing walking and biking to and from school.

According to the report, one out of every three American children is overweight or obese, and low-income students are more likely to be overweight as adults, a status that puts them at higher risk for lower educational attainment, chronic health problems and dependency on welfare or unemployment compensation. Thus, preventing childhood obesity and ensuring childhood health remain critical policy goals.

Visit for more information on preventing childhood obesity.

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