Obesity and School Wellness Programs
Problem worth examining… ddw comments in red text
I am interested in childhood obesity and am looking into the
possibility of looking at the effects of school wellness programs in
schools (I don’t know whether these schools will be in Akron or Ohio as
a whole). I may want to do something along these lines for my
A little background…
As of June 30, 2004, President Bush signed
Public Law 108-265, the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act,
which requires every school district that participates in a federal
school meal program to establish a district-wide wellness
program/policy by the beginning of the 2006-2007 school year.
Childhood obesity and hunger are both issues in Ohio with percentages
mirroring the national averages.
The first thing you must do is get a copy of those wellness program/policy guidelines on which the law is based.
This might take some doing, but calling something a wellness program is one thing. Remember,
the feds are the guys who decided ketchup was a vegetable in order to
satisfy their own guidelines about nutrition and school lunches and cut
What I am thinking…
Because I will still be taking classes in the spring semester 2008, I
thought that it would be interesting to examine the effects of these
wellness policies in schools between the implementation (this summer)
and the completion of my coursework (summer 2008)…so roughly 2
years. I am thinking that I should survey schools…but this is
when I have trouble.
Getting access to the public
schools to do research is difficult - doesn't mean you shouldn't try,
but they will be resistant, especially allowing you access to public
school children for questionnaires. Administrators tend to see
this as borrowing trouble. Further - be careful that you are not
targeting students who themselves are obese - for obvious reasons.
So, you'll need to think about how you gain access to a sample of students other than through the schools themselves.
And in two years, you won't be able to detect much difference in actual
health improvements. So, in terms of general education and impact of
the school wellness program on children's health, I think you may have
to rely on measuring the knowledge the kids carry around in their heads
as a result of program implementation.
I am debating whether it would be better to
survey school officials about extracurricular/wellness activities they
offer before and after the implementation, the school’s population, how
many students participate in the national school lunch/breakfast
program, etc. (I could go all day)…basically the specifics of the
school as a whole.
This seems like something you'd have more luck pulling off.
Better yet - if you could find two school officials in only a few
schools (one each say of poor district, middle class district, public
school, private school) and document the process of
implementation. They'll want to implement because of the chance
to gain additional operation budget dollars, or the risk of losing
them. Whether or not they'll let you watch the process is another
matter - this is where charm and grace come in.
Or…I could survey students about whether they
participate in school lunch programs, extracurricular activities, use
of vending machines, and other school dynamics.
This is also an option - but I'd
think of this as a way to add color to the thesis, or add an opposing
view of health practices.
Just know that school officials
are not going to allow you to have access to problems they are having -
they'll want to avoid exposure.
I have some articles
about the implementation of other school programs and I am going to
read how they measured success of those programs to maybe get some more
ideas. Pay close attention to the research methodologies used in counting/measuring implementation.