School Policies and Practices to Improve Health and Prevent Obesity

This report updates one of the most comprehensive studies of health-related policies and practices in U.S. public middle and high schools to date, originally released in August 2011.The major findings and trends presented in this report describe issues relevant to childhood obesity for five school years, from 2006-07 to 2010-2011. The authors examine foods and beverages offered through the National School Lunch Program and also outside of school meal programs, including those sold in vending machines, school stores and à la carte cafeteria lines. They also examine physical education requirements and rates of participation; participation in varsity and intramural sports; and walking and bicycling to and from school.

This report offers timely insights for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to consider as it continues implementation of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. The report also helps inform future policies that aim to prevent obesity and improve children's diets, physical activity levels and overall health. Data presented in this report:

  • help document how secondary schools implemented district wellness policies during the first five years following the implementation deadline of the wellness policy mandate; provide guidance for local, state and federal policy-makers about successes and areas where new legislation is needed to strengthen existing efforts;
  • help school administrators, school board members and parents benchmark their own schools' progress and identify areas of greatest progress and weakness; and
  • help school administrators, policy-makers and the general public understand gains made and work still needed to address disparities in childhood obesity rates.