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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UGA: School Location, Income Found to Impact Georgia Childhood Obesity Policy Roll Out

Since the launch of the Georgia Shape childhood obesity initiative in 2011, schools statewide have been encouraged to provide more opportunities for physical activity, whether that’s through recess or movement integrated into the classroom.

But according to a recent study from the University of Georgia, schools in suburban areas of the state and schools with higher rates of poverty showed lower opportunities for physical activity.

Individual characteristics of schools can influence how statewide policy is implemented, said study lead author, Dr. Janani R. Thapa, an assistant professor of health policy and management and director of the Economic Evaluation Research Group at the University of Georgia College of Public Health.

Dr. Thapa and her co-authors compared physical activity opportunities provided during the school day, measured as minutes per day, before and during the initiative’s roll out, and then they evaluated the changes with respect to school-level variables. These included race, gender, school size, socioeconomic status, and geographic location of schools.

There was an overall increase in total physical activity opportunities, but schools in districts with higher rates of poverty offered on average five fewer minutes of physical activity per day after the roll out.

“The results are very telling in the sense that, first, we know that implementation isn’t homogeneous across all schools,” said Dr. Thapa, who emphasized that these findings should encourage architects of similar statewide policies to plan for disparities in policy implementation.

“All resources are available to all schools, but some schools need more uplifting, before those resources can help,” she said.

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