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Health Promotion | Research

The Health Promotion programs at American University incorporate tenets of the social ecological model to address health promotion concerns and improve quality of life through various levels of influence. Current research efforts on behalf of faculty members are included below.

chart adapted from USDA health factors

Adapted from United States Department of Agriculture. (2010). Dietary guidelines for Americans, page 56.

The Healthy Schools Act of 2010

In an effort to slow the trend of childhood obesity in the District of Columbia, the DC City Council passed the Healthy Schools Act of 2010. This legislation mandates that public and public charter school students in Washington, DC have nutritious meals and as well as access to physical education, health education, and healthy school environments. The Act requires schools to annually submit a School Health Profile, detailing their progress with meeting the provisions of the Act. The data collected includes information on the number of minutes students receive physical education and health education on a weekly basis, whether or not their meals meet the nutritional requirements of the Act, and whether or not they participate in farm to school activities.

With a grant from Kaiser Permanente of the Mid-Atlantic States, Dr. Stacey Snelling and her team in the School of Education, Teaching, and Health, have analyzed this data for every school year since 2011. They engage stakeholders in an annual conference around the results of their analysis, including the degree to which schools are implementing the Act, observed trends, and the impact of the Act, both for the health of DC students and for their academic outcomes.

The Healthy Schools Act of 2010: 5-Year Progress Report

D.C. Schools Make Strides On Students' Health WAMU, February 10, 2016

Is more physical education at school linked to higher student math scores? Washington Post, February 9, 2016

Click here to read more about the Healthy Schools Act of 2010.

Read about 2014's Healthy Schools Act Conference.

See last year's presentation at the Healthy Schools Act Conference.


Community Voices for Health

Community Voices for Health is a school-based program that engages middle school children, teachers, staff and families in building a healthier school community through advocacy and education with experiential, empowering learning opportunities.

Link to Community Voices for Health.


Behavioral Economics Research

American University and the United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Services have partnered to conduct behavioral economics research in local elementary schools. The research team is using taste-test interventions to try and encourage children to eat more of the vegetables that are included in the school-lunch meal as part of the Healthy Schools Act of 2010. Data collected during the 2012-2013 academic year yielded encouraging results for increasing vegetable consumption by engaging students in the process of selecting preferred preparation methods. Work is ongoing for the 2013-2014 academic year with an expansion from four to eight schools.

Sample of Recent Faculty Research and Publications

Lydecker, J. A., Cotter, E. W., Kelly, N. R., Gow, R. W., & Mazzeo, S. E. (2013). Preventing childhood obesity. In L. H. Choate (Ed.). Eating Disorders and Obesity: A Counselors Guide to Prevention and Treatment. Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association Press.

Cotter, E. W., Kelly, N.R., Mitchell, K.S., & Mazzeo, S.E. (in press). An investigation of body appreciation, ethnic identity and eating disorder symptoms in black women. Journal of Black Psychology.

Snelling, A. (2013).A community-academic partnership to promote student health and education outcomes. Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, 24(2), 97-102. doi: 10.1353/hpu.2013.0110

Snelling, A., Ernst, J., Irvine Belson, S. (2013). Teachers as role models in the fight against childhood obesity. Journal of Pediatric Biochemistry, special edition, 3(1),55-60.

Snelling, A., Irvine Belson, S., Young, J. (2012). School health reform. Journal of Child Management and Nutrition, 36(1).

Winston, C. P., Sallis, J. F., Swartz, M. D., Hoelscher, D. M., & Peskin, M. F. (2013). Reliability of the hospital nutrition environment scan for cafeterias, vending machines, and gift shops. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 113(8). doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2013.04.004

Winston, C. P., Sallis, J. F., Swartz, M. D., Hoelscher, D. M., & Peskin, M. F. (2013). Consumer nutrition environments of hospitals: An exploratory analysis using the hospital nutrition environment scan for cafeterias, vending machines, and gift shops, 2012. Preventing Chronic Disease, 10.

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