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Support for School-based Obesity Prevention Efforts: Attitudes Among Administrators at Nationally-Representative Samples of U.S. Elementary Schools

Turner L, Slater SJ, and Chaloupka FJ. Childhood Obesity, 9(4):311-318, 2013.

Background: With the continued threat of childhood obesity, many public health intervention efforts focus on school settings. The current study sought to document administrator attitudes regarding obesity and interest in improving relevant school practices (i.e., nutrition and physical activity) in elementary schools.

Methods: Mail-back surveys were used to gather data from public and private elementary schools during the 2006-2007, 2007-2008, 2008-2009, and 2010-2011 school years. In each year, a different set of items pertaining to administrator attitudes was included. Numbers of responding schools annually ranged from 259 to 336 private schools, and from 578 to 748 public schools.

Results: The vast majority of elementary school administrators (>90%) agreed that schools can play a role in addressing childhood obesity, physical education improves a variety of academic outcomes, and they were interested in improving practices at their school. Concern about childhood obesity and perceiving that schools can play a role in addressing obesity were both associated with more interest in improving school practices. However, only one-third of administrators agreed that parents were interested in participating in improving nutrition and physical activity practices, suggesting opportunities for efforts to improve collaboration.

Conclusions: Administrators are generally very supportive of school-based efforts to improve nutrition and physical activity practices and see the value in doing so. Given the amount of time children spend in school, schools are an essential venue for efforts to address childhood obesity.

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