CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A West Virginia University research team has found that the state’s public schools have made substantial progress in helping students adopt healthy behaviors. Reviews of updated West Virginia Board of Education school nutrition standards and the Healthy Lifestyles Act of 2005 show that most schools are taking positive steps to improve student health.
“The combination of these policies for nutrition and physical activity make West Virginia one of the most progressive states in the country when it comes to addressing childhood obesity and related issues,” said Carole Harris, a professor of Behavioral Medicine & Psychiatry and co-director of the Health Research Center at the WVU School of Medicine. “But some schools continue to struggle to provide the mandated physical education because of inadequate staffing, facilities, or both.”
Harris and Drew Bradlyn, also a professor of Behavioral Medicine & Psychiatry and co-director of the Health Research Center at the WVU School of Medicine, recently presented their findings in Charleston at a meeting attended by state health and education officials.
Harris said schools have made substantial progress. She noted improved participation by students and schools in health education and fitness testing, while Bradlyn said the state’s adoption of West Virginia Standards for School Nutrition in 2008 has made a difference, even though some schools said the new policy was a challenge to implement.
“Students are making changes in their dietary behavior,” Bradlyn said. “They’re consuming more milk, more fruits and vegetables than the year before.”
The report recommends that schools and communities strengthen their relationships and work together to continue to improve the nutrition and physical activity environments for children and families.
To carry out the evaluations, Bradlyn and Harris surveyed school principals, parents, students, health teachers, school nurses, school superintendents, physical education teachers and healthcare providers. In addition to WVU, three state offices worked on the project—the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health Office of Healthy Lifestyles, the West Virginia Department of Education Office of Healthy Schools and Office of Child Nutrition. The evaluation project was part of a $1.5 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
For more information, see http://www.hsc.wvu.edu/som/hrc, or contact the West Virginia Department of Education’s Office of Communications at 304-558-2699.
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