The Quality of School Physical Activity Policies Within Maryland and Virginia

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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Background:

Since the adoption of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, many researchers have examined changes in the school nutrition environment; however, far less research has focused on the evaluation of physical activity (PA) policies within public schools.

Methods:

School district wellness policies (n = 144) of Virginia and Maryland were coded using a previously validated audit tool with a scale of 0 (weakest, least comprehensive) to 1 (strongest, most comprehensive).

Results:

Mean policy strength was weak (.20 ± .15), and, on average, policies were moderately comprehensive (.40 ± .22). The strongest (.73 ± .44) and most comprehensive (.79 ± .40) policy subgroup addressed daily recess in elementary schools. Virginia had significantly higher scores in 9 policy groups, while Maryland had higher significant policy scores in the 2 following groups: (1) the strength and comprehensiveness of a written physical education (PE) curriculum for each grade level (Ps < .05) and (2) the strength and comprehensiveness of addressing the use of PE waivers (Ps < .05).

Conclusions:

PA wellness policies in Maryland and Virginia are extremely weak and only moderately comprehensive; it is unlikely that these policies will significantly influence school-based PA.

The authors are with the Dept of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA.

Smith (erinsmith@vt.edu) is corresponding author.