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Local wellness policy, Physical education


The federally mandated Local Wellness Policy (LWP) was intended to promote student health in schools. This study assesses the 5-year effects of the LWP on the health practices of rural elementary schools in Colorado.

One year before and 5 years after the LWP mandate, a survey was administered to a random sample of principals, physical education (PE) teachers, and food-service managers in 45 rural, low-income elementary schools in Colorado. Response rates were 71% in 2005 and 89% in 2011.

Minutes for PE and recess did not increase, nor did offerings of fresh fruits and vegetables. More schools adopted policies prohibiting teachers from taking recess away as punishment (9.7% in 2005 vs 38.5% in 2011, P = .02) or for making up missed instructional time, class work, or tests in other subjects (3.2% in 2005 vs 28.2% in 2011, P = .03). More schools scheduled recess before lunch (22.6% in 2005 vs 46.2% in 2011, P = .04) and developed policies for vending machines (42.9% in 2005 vs 85.7% in 2011, P = .01) and parties (21.4% in 2005 vs 57.9% in 2011, P = .004).

Changes in school practices are modest, and arguably the important school practices such as increased PE and recess time and increased offerings of fruits and vegetables in the lunch line have not changed in the 5 years since the mandate went into effect. Further investigation is needed to identify the knowledge, skills, and attitudes as well as financial and physical resources required for school administrators to make changes in school practices.

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Originally published by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Preventing Chronic Disease. View published version here: