The Evaluation of Arkansas Act 1220 of 2003 to Reduce Childhood Obesity

Conceptualization, Design, and Special Challenges

Arkansas was one of the first states to address childhood obesity through legislation requiring BMI measurement of public school children.

The Arkansas Act of 1220 in 2003, reported the BMI and health risks of public school children to parents, and restricted student access to vending machines. The act also created mechanisms to foster additional policy changes.

This evaluation team documented changes in school environments and policies, as well as changes in knowledge, attitudes and behaviors concerning childhood obesity, and nutrition and physical activity in families and students.

Comparing 2004 to 2010:

  • More schools modified recipes to be lower in fat or to provide more fruits, vegetables or fiber (26% versus 42%).
  • More elementary schools required regularly scheduled recess (58% versus 70%).
  • Students purchased fewer beverages from vending machines (9.2 purchases per student per month versus 2.0 purchases).

While the researchers report that awareness of childhood obesity and its risks have increased among parents, family eating or physical activity behaviors have not changed.

This evaluation “may inform policy-makers, researchers, public health professionals, and school personnel about the facilitators and barriers involved in implementation of such policies. . . and the potential for improvements in childhood obesity rates across our nation,” the researchers write.