Start Date: February 2016

ID #: 73388

Principal Investigator: Wenjun Li, PhD

Organization: University of Massachusetts

Funding Round: Round 9

See more related research


While overall prevalence of obesity improved in Massachusetts public schools between 2009 and 2014, prevalence remained unchanged for children living in poor, rural, and smaller communities. This project will identify which programs and activities have been effective in reducing childhood obesity among the successful schools, and use the information to guide future interventions for those schools that were not. Specific aims of this study are to: 1) investigate the roles of school policies, healthy eating and physical education programs, and community social and built environments in the decline in obesity prevalence among Massachusetts public school students; 2) identify necessary and sufficient conditions for significantly reducing obesity prevalence in public schools; and 3) recommend approaches to accelerate the decline and reduce socioeconomic and geographic disparities in obesity prevalence in public schools. The research team will use a mixed methods approach to identify both necessary and sufficient school and community conditions for reducing obesity prevalence in public schools using a retro- and prospective cohort design. Researchers will analyze over 2.1 million body mass index (BMI) records from 338 school districts for public school students grades 1, 4, 7, and 10 between 2009 and 2017 and correlate them with school-level administrative data on healthy eating and physical education programs and community social and built environmental data from the same period. Analytic reports and district-specific recommendations will be shared with the Massachusetts Departments of Public Health and Elementary and Secondary Education and all Massachusetts public schools.

Related Research

June 2023

Understanding Barriers and Facilitators of Universal Free School Meals in NYS

When waivers for Universal Free School Meals (UFSM) ended in 2022, approximately 726,000 students lost access to free meals in New York (NY). This study examines the impact of maintaining (or de-implementing) Universal Free School Meals in NY, especially for Black and Hispanic/Latino families who may be disproportionately impacted by pre-existing inequities. This study will More

March 2023

Reducing Student Exposure to Digital Food and Beverage Marketing: Policy and Practice Recommendations

Digital marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages to children and adolescents is pervasive, highly effective, undermines healthy eating, and contributes to health inequities. Expanded use of electronic devices and remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the urgency for policy interventions to limit digital food marketing in schools and on school-issued devices. The US More

February 2023

Rapid Health Impact Assessment on Changes to School Nutrition Standards to Align with 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans

The national school breakfast and lunch programs administered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) are cornerstone federal nutrition assistance programs. School meals are one of the healthiest sources of foods for school-age children, which is significant as some children receive up to half of their daily calories at school. Policy opportunities in 2023 More