Implementing a Wellness Policy: Perceptions of Elementary School Employees
AuthorBancroft, Elizabeth Anne
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ABSTRACTSchools are increasingly the focal point for policy-driven childhood obesity prevention efforts - including the provision of education, services and environmental interventions. School wellness policies were mandated per Senate Bill 2507 (2004), the 2004 Child Nutrition and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Reauthorization Act, for all schools that receive funding through the federal school meals program. Local policies were to include nutrition guidelines for all foods available at schools, as well as goals for nutrition education and physical activity. Since the policies went into place in School Year 2006-2007, a growing number of studies have been conducted about the experiences of school employees. The objective of this study was to contribute to this body of knowledge by investigating the experiences of wellness coordinators, principals and foodservice managers in implementing the Washoe County School District (WCSD) School Wellness Policy. Twenty semi-structured interviews were conducted with elementary school principals (n=9), wellness coordinators (n=3) and foodservice managers (n=8). Participants responses were transcribed verbatim from audio recordings. NVivo 7.0 Qualitative Analysis Software was used to code the data. Two investigators coded a portion of the data to assess reliability; an 80% inter-rater reliability was achieved. Participant responses addressed the following topics: changes due to the policy, roles and responsibilities, facilitating policy implementation, challenges to policy implementation, priority of the policy and suggestions for improvement. Overall, three themes were identified from the responses made by school employees. In general, participants indicated that they perceived that the school food environment had become more healthful. They also commented that there had been insufficient support of implementation since the initial "roll-out" of the policy - including inadequacies in resources, communication and enforcement. Lastly, school employees commented that the policy was a low priority for schools because the highest priority was achieving academic standards. If the findings of this qualitative study were discovered among a representative sample of school employees, it would be of benefit to compare the effectiveness of different communication strategies and resources relative to the implementation of health and nutrition-related policies.