In May 2010, the District of Columbia City Council passed the Healthy Schools Act designed to encourage District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) and Public Charter Schools to improve school nutrition and physical and health education, increase student physical activity time, establish school gardens, and collect data to develop school health profiles. The Act represents a major commitment to addressing the obesity epidemic in one of the largest and most socio-economically diverse urban school districts. Seventy-two percent (72%) of the District's 73,796 in both Public and Public Charter Schools are eligible for free or reduced price meals; 79% are African-American and 13% are Hispanic. The Act can be considered a model policy to address childhood obesity and will be examined closely by federal officials, legislators, and public policy experts throughout the nation.
The American University (AU) School of Education, Teaching and Health (SETH), in partnership with the DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), is compiling the data on measuring the implementation and impact of improving the school health environment data. SETH and OSSE are utilizing these data to examine relationships between and among school health environments, student health knowledge, health levels, academic achievement, and demographics. This process, and relevant findings, are being utilized to impact future amendments to the Act and its full impact in future years, and provide valuable contributions to the research base on school health and environmental policies designed to impact childhood obesity.
Successful implementation of the Act is expected to reduce obesity rates among DC students, identify strategies for creating healthier school environments, and inform the development of healthy school policies in urban school districts.
American University has hosted two conferences to share the research results and get feedback from the professional community.