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Prev Chronic Dis. 2017 Dec 28;14:E142. doi: 10.5888/pcd14.160605.

Obesity Prevention Interventions in US Public Schools: Are Schools Using Programs That Promote Weight Stigma?

Author information

1
Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, 677 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02115. E-mail: ekenney@hsph.harvard.edus.
2
Simmons College School of Social Work, Boston, Massachusetts.
3
Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts.
4
Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.

Abstract

INTRODUCTION:

Despite substantial research on school-based obesity prevention programs, it is unclear how widely they are disseminated. It is also unknown whether schools use obesity programs that inadvertently promote weight stigma or disordered weight-control behaviors.

METHODS:

In spring 2016, we distributed an online survey about school wellness programming to a simple random sample of US public school administrators (N = 247 respondents; 10.3% response rate). We analyzed survey responses and conducted immersion/crystallization analysis of written open-ended responses.

RESULTS:

Slightly less than half (n = 117, 47.4%) of schools offered any obesity prevention program. Only 17 (6.9%) reported using a predeveloped program, and 7 (2.8%) reported using a program with evidence for effectiveness. Thirty-seven schools (15.0%) reported developing intervention programs that focused primarily on individual students' or staff members' weight rather than nutrition or physical activity; 28 schools (11.3% of overall) used staff weight-loss competitions. School administrators who reported implementing a program were more likely to describe having a program champion and adequate buy-in from staff, families, and students. Lack of funding, training, and time were widely reported as barriers to implementation. Few administrators used educational (n = 12, 10.3%) or scientific (n = 6, 5.1%) literature for wellness program decision making.

CONCLUSION:

Evidence-based obesity prevention programs appear to be rarely implemented in US schools. Schools may be implementing programs lacking evidence and programs that may unintentionally exacerbate student weight stigma by focusing on student weight rather than healthy habits. Public health practitioners and researchers should focus on improving support for schools to implement evidence-based programs.

PMID:
29283880
PMCID:
PMC5757382
DOI:
10.5888/pcd14.160605
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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