A Comprehensive Coding System to Measure the Quality of School Wellness Policies

In 2006, all local education agencies in the United States participating in the National School Lunch Program were required to establish school wellness policies that covered nutrition education, nutrition standards for school foods and physical activity.

The purpose of this psychometric study was to develop and evaluate a comprehensive coding system to evaluate the quality of school wellness policies. A 96-item coding tool was developed to evaluate wellness policies on seven goal areas: nutrition education, U.S. Department of Agriculture standards for child nutrition programs and school meals, nutrition standards for competitive foods, communication and promotion, and evaluation. All goal areas were scored for both comprehensiveness and strength.

The study determined that the newly developed measure demonstrated good internal consistency and interrater reliability. Additionally, the total comprehensiveness and strength scores demonstrated good range and variability. These findings indicate that this coding system is a reliable and valid measure of the quality of school wellness policies. The amount of training necessary to use the measure and a defined process for establishing rater reliability will need to be developed as the measure is used.

This coding system builds upon other research evaluating school wellness policies. The findings may not be generalizable because policies from only four states were included in this study. Future research is needed to see if the scores will predict the actual school environment or health outcomes.