Skip over navigation

Journal Issue: Childhood Obesity Volume 16 Number 1 Spring 2006

The Role of Schools in Obesity Prevention
Mary Story Karen M. Kaphingst Simone French

Recommendations for Schools

Schools can become one of the nation's most effective weapons in the fight against obesity by creating an environment that is conducive to healthful eating and physical activity. Health and success in school are interrelated; schools cannot achieve their primary educational mission if their students and staff are not healthy and physically, mentally, and socially fit. Each school can follow ten key strategies, taken from CDC guidelines for its coordinated school health program, to promote lifelong physical activity and healthful eating for its population:

  • address physical activity and nutrition through a Coordinated School Health Program approach,
  • designate a school health coordinator and maintain an active school health council,
  • assess the school's health policies and programs and develop a plan for improvement,
  • strengthen the school's nutrition and physical activity policies,
  • implement a high-quality health promotion program for school staff,
  • carry out a high-quality course of study in health education,
  • implement a high-quality PE course,
  • increase opportunities for students to engage in physical activity,
  • offer a quality school meals program, and
  • ensure that students have appealing, healthful choices in foods and beverages offered outside of the school meals program.174

The Institute of Medicine report, Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance, also offers comprehensive recommendations regarding school efforts to advance obesity prevention and outlines immediate steps schools can take to improve healthful eating and physical activity.175 Among those steps are improving the nutritional quality of foods and beverages served and sold in schools and as part of school-related activities, increasing opportunities for physical activity during and after school, implementing school-based interventions to reduce children's screen time, and developing, implementing, and evaluating innovative pilot programs for both staffing and teaching about wellness, healthful eating, and physical activity.