Information for Action: School Policies to Prevent Childhood Obesity

An RWJF National Program

In response to dramatic increases in the number of Arkansas children and adolescents who are overweight or at risk for overweight, in 2003 the Arkansas legislature passed Arkansas Act 1220 to Combat Obesity. This new law included the most ambitious school reforms in the nation to limit vending and competitive foods (a la carte and vending items that compete with the school meals that must meet federal guidelines, e.g. sodas and foods of limited nutritional value). It also established better standards for food offerings and physical activity.

One section of the act requires all school districts to measure body mass index (BMI) for every public school student annually and report results to parents.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) started funding a set of grants it calls Information for Action that takes advantage of Arkansas Act 1220 by supporting two activities that promote understanding about the effectiveness of school-based initiatives in reducing childhood obesity.

This report covers findings and results through 2007; it will be updated when Information for Action has closed.

Information for Action's components are:

  • Act 1220 Evaluation, in which researchers at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health measure the effects of Act 1220 on children, families and schools. The evaluation assesses children's diet, physical activity and school environment the year Act 1220 took effect (year 1) and again for each of the three years after implementation of the act (years 2, 3 and 4). This component is funded to mid-August 2012.
  • The Arkansas BMI Database Project, in which researchers at the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (ACHI) at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences analyze BMI data to study how BMI status affects health status and to use findings to inform policy. Through 2007, the database contains four years of BMI data on Arkansas students. This component is funded through November 2009.