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The Relationship Between Policy Strength and Physical Activity Practices in Arizona Public Elementary Schools

Kahyun Nam, Kylie Wilson, Marissa Schulke, Pamela Hodges Kulinna, and Allison Poulos

Background: Many school-based physical activity statutes and regulations have been enacted, with the expectation that schools will comply. However, policy alone does not equate to implementation, and many policies fail for a variety of reasons. The purpose of the study was to determine whether the strength of reported state, district, and school-level physical activity policies were associated with reported recess, physical education, and other school-based physical activity practices at elementary schools in Arizona. Methods: A modified Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program (CSPAP) Questionnaire was administered to staff at elementary schools across Arizona (N = 171). Summative indices of the number of school physical activity policies and best practices at the state, district, and school levels were created. Relationships between policy strength and best practices were examined using linear regression analyses stratified by recess, physical education, and other school-based physical activity practices. Results: Stronger physical activity-related policies were associated with a greater number of recess (F 1,142 = 9.87, P < .05), physical education (F 4,148 = 4.58, P < .05, Adj. R 2 = .09), and other school-based physical activity (F 4,148 = 4.04, P < .05, Adj. R 2 = .07) best practices at all levels while controlling for school-level demographic factors. Conclusions: The strength of policies may improve opportunities for comprehensive physical activity for children in schools. Strengthening policy language (eg, specifying duration and frequency) may contribute to better physical activity practices in schools, improving children’s health at the population level.