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Carole V. Harris, Andrew S. Bradlyn, Nancy O. Tompkins, Melanie B. Purkey, Keri A. Kennedy and George A. Kelley

Background:

The West Virginia Healthy Lifestyles Act contained 5 school-based mandates intended to reduce childhood obesity. These addressed the sale of healthy beverages, physical education time, fitness assessment, health education and assessment, and Body Mass Index measurement. This article describes the processes and methods used to evaluate efforts to implement the legislation.

Methods:

University researchers and state public health and education staff formed the collaborative evaluation team. To assess perceptions and practices, surveys were completed with school personnel (53 superintendents, 586 principals, 398 physical education teachers, 214 nurses) and telephone interviews were conducted with a multistage, stratified sample of 1500 parents and 420 students statewide. Healthcare providers (N = 122) were surveyed regarding current child weight practices and interactions with families. Statewide data reflecting fitness, physical education plans, local wellness policies, and health knowledge were included in the evaluation.

Results:

The evaluation was facilitated by state officials and agencies, resulting in good access to survey groups and high survey response rates for school personnel (57% to 95% response rates); a substantially lower response rate was obtained for healthcare providers (22%).

Conclusions:

Collaborative design and implementation was a key factor in the successful conduct of this obesity policy evaluation.