Family, Child, Adolescent Health (Includes Maternal & Child Health)
School Wellness Policies: Promoting Student Health and Academic Success
(School of Medicine (UMB) Pediatrics Staff)
BACKGROUND: Federal law mandates that schools participating in federal child nutrition programs implement Local Wellness Policies (LWPs). The objectives are to examine the relation between LWP implementation and academic success in Maryland elementary/middle schools and whether relations differ by majority low-income student body. METHODS: The Maryland Wellness Policies and Practices Project is a statewide study examining school-level LWP implementation via an online administrator survey (response rate=55.2%, 744/1349). Elementary/middle schools were included (elementary=460; middle=111) to examine Maryland State Assessment (MSA) performance. School-level MSA scores (math/reading %proficiency) and demographics (>75% Free-and-Reduced-Price Meals, proxy for low-income) were provided by the State. ANOVA and independent t-tests examined association between %proficiency, LWP implementation, and majority low-income student body. Multi-level regression models, accounting for clustering within school systems, examined association between %proficiency and LWP implementation and whether relations differed by majority low-income student body. RESULTS: Of the 571 schools, 24.9% had majority low-income student body. Math and reading %proficiency differed by LWP implementation (F(2,539)=3.458, p=.032; F(2,539)=3.336, p=.036 respectively). Schools with majority low-income student body had lower math and reading %proficiency (t(620)=14.402, p<0.001; t(620)=20.529, p<0.001 respectively) and lower LWP implementation (F(1,709)=9.795, p=0.002). Models accounting for clustering within school systems revealed no relation between LWP implementation and %proficiency in math or reading. Majority low-income student body marginally moderated relation between LWP implementation and reading %proficiency (p=0.08). Stratified analyses suggested that among schools with majority low-income student bodies, low LWP implementation (versus none) was associated with lower MSA math and reading scores (b=-5.06, p=0.042; b=-3.89, p=0.021 respectively); and among schools without majority low-income student bodies, high LWP implementation (versus none) was marginally associated with higher reading %proficiency (b=1.51, p=0.062). CONCLUSIONS: MSA %proficiency differed by LWP implementation and majority low-income student body. Working toward high implementation of LWP may enhance academic success despite differences in student body income.
Importance to public health: