Term of Award

Spring 2008

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Education Administration (Ed.D.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)

Department

Department of Leadership, Technology, and Human Development

Committee Chair

Charles A. Reavis

Committee Member 1

Linda M. Arthur

Committee Member 2

Anne E. Marshall

Committee Member 3

John D. Rowlett

Abstract

Childhood obesity has become an epidemic that can no longer be ignored. Obesity issues are being addressed through House Bill 108-265, under the provisions provided in Public Law 108-265, Section 2507; which requires school districts to develop local wellness policies. Local wellness policies include goals for nutrition education and physical activity, nutrition guidelines with the objectives of promoting student health and promoting the reduction of childhood obesity, meal reimbursement guidelines, a plan for measuring implementation, and input of multiple stakeholders. Although there have been many studies on the causes and costs of childhood obesity, less is known regarding the potential challenges to and benefits for implementing local wellness policies. The purpose of this study was to identify the challenges to and potential benefits for implementing local wellness polices in Georgia Public Schools. Data from this study were collected from nine in-depth interviews in three different school districts throughout the State of Georgia. The results of this study for potential benefits include an increase in nutritional offerings during school lunches, increased awareness on health related topics, increased health education and promotion, potential long-term health benefits, healthier more alert students including higher selfesteem, reduced stress, increased attendance and academic achievement; and an increase in physical activity including more recreation and physical education classes for students and staff. The results of this study for challenges to implementing local wellness policy include lack of time in parent and teacher schedules, teacher stress, vending sponsorships and profits, lack of training, lack of state and federal financial support, the availability of convenience and fast foods, costs associated with healthier foods, increased academic requirements and state mandates, and family and cultural values towards nutrition and physical activity. All district local wellness policies included the minimum necessary requirements under federal law; however, a disconnection was evident between implementation by district administrators and implementation in the schools. Consequently, although all districts had a written policy, there was a lack a plan for implementation at all levels. Based on this study, there is a need to help districts develop creative ways to incorporate the local wellness policy requirements into the instructional day, provide alternative ways to seek loss of vending profits, and lobby legislators to provide financial and technical support. Finally, there needs to be a clear understanding of the responsibilities of each stakeholder, a need to specifically identify the objectives and intended outcomes of local wellness policy implementation, and a plan for evaluation.

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