The Integrated Curriculum of "Planned Approach to Healthier Schools": Improved Nutrition and Increased Physical Activity Blaze a Path to a Healthier Lifestyle

By Lounsbery, Monica; Gast, Julie et al. | JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, March 2005 | Go to article overview

The Integrated Curriculum of "Planned Approach to Healthier Schools": Improved Nutrition and Increased Physical Activity Blaze a Path to a Healthier Lifestyle


Lounsbery, Monica, Gast, Julie, Smith, Nicole, JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance


Planned Approach to Healthier Schools (PATHS) is a multicomponent school program that aims to establish and sustain a social norm consistent with physical activity and healthy nutrition in the school community. The PATHS components include (1) a professional development and wellness program for faculty and staff, (2) ongoing social-marketing research and a marketing campaign, (3) a parental awareness campaign, (4) the development of school environmental supports, and (5) an integrated physical activity and nutrition curriculum, which also functions as a school-wide health intervention.

During the second year of its funding, PATHS was piloted during the first and third trimesters in one rural high school and one junior high school in northern Utah. As a means to evaluate the effectiveness of the PATHS program, the physical activity and nutritional behavior of students from randomly selected teachers' classes were measured. This was accomplished by administering a questionnaire before and after the PATHS implementation. The questionnaire consisted of relevant items from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [USDHHS], 2001a). The nutritional and physical activity behavior of the student sample from the PATHS school sites was compared to students from two very similar school sites within the same school district. The following results were found:

* Statistically significant differences were found for student physical activity behavior between students in the PATHS program and those at the comparable school sites.

* Statistically significant differences were found for the junior high school students' behavior before and after the PATHS implementation.

* While no before-and-after implementation differences were found for the nutritional behavior of either gender, significant pre-implementation differences were found between boys and girls, with girls demonstrating worse nutrition than boys. However, post-implementation differences between boys and girls were not found. Combined, these results indicate a trend toward better nutritional behavior for girls after the PATHS implementation.

Focus group discussions with students yielded the following additional findings:

* Students described the overall PATHS experience as positive.

* Students expressed value in feeling more involved in their school.

* Students felt they learned to work with others and got to know people that they would not have without the experience.

* Students learned about the importance of being healthy, how difficult and relevant the problem of obesity is, and the prevalence of physical inactivity and poor nutritional behavior among kids, particularly in their own school.

In addition, teachers were asked to keep observational records as another means to evaluate the effect of PATHS. Observational records indicated the following:

* Students who were unlikely to pursue leadership roles got the opportunity to lead, and teachers also noted improved self-esteem among some students.

* Teachers observed students who belonged to different social groups openly interacting with one another during passing periods and before and after school.

* Members of the student body reported thinking more about how active they were and about the nutritional value of the food they consumed.

* Teachers observed students talking with one another about physical activity and nutrition.

These pilot results suggest that PATHS may have numerous positive implications for schools and especially for positively changing physical activity and nutritional behavior. Moreover, with the teachers' observational data and student focus group data included, there is evidence to suggest the existence of initial momentum toward establishing a social norm consistent with physical activity and healthy nutrition.

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