Assessing a novel application of web-based technology to support implementation of school wellness policies and prevent obesity
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- Wright, P.M., Li, W., Okunbor, E. et al. Educ Inf Technol (2012) 17: 95. doi:10.1007/s10639-010-9146-4
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Childhood obesity is one of the most pressing public health concerns in the United States. Because schools are a critical site to promote wellness and prevent obesity, extensive policy and legislative efforts have focused on school-based food services, nutrition education, physical education, and overall physical activity. Unfortunately, research indicates that most of these policies prove ineffective due to insufficient implementation. A small number of web-based programs have emerged that are designed to support the implementation of school wellness policies. The purpose of the current study is to present and interpret findings from an evaluation of the web-based portion of a program implemented throughout the state of Pennsylvania. In total, 192 registered users completed a survey designed to evaluate their utilization and perceptions of the web-based features of the Health eTools for Schools program. Participants represented the following stakeholder groups: school nurses, teachers, wellness coordinators, administrators, and food service directors. Findings indicate the web-based portion of the Health eTools for Schools program is comprehensive, well-designed, and has the potential to support implementation of school wellness policies geared toward obesity prevention. At present, the web-based features are most effective in providing school nurses with tools and resources to execute their roles related to obesity prevention. Applications supporting other groups such as teachers and food service directors require further development to be equally effective. The number of programs with this focus is likely to increase and further research is needed to address other aspects of these programs as well as their impact on student level outcomes such as eating habits, body mass index, physical activity levels, and physical fitness.