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Participatory action research, Obesity, School-based intervention



  1. DiNapoli, Pamela P. PhD, RN
  2. Lewis, James B. ScD


Purpose: This study aimed to assess current levels of overweight (obesity) and fitness among school students using objective data.


Methods: School-based action research teams were recruited statewide by the New Hampshire Healthy Schools Coalition, the state team of the National Action for Healthy Kids Coalition. Action teams consisted of a physical education teacher, a school nurse, and a school administrator. Data were collected from 6,511 student participants aged 6 to 14 years, which was a representative cross-section from New Hampshire school districts. Key variables of interest in the study were body mass index, and ability to pass five fitness tests using FITNESSGRAM. Pearson's correlation was used to assess the relationships among body mass index, age, gender, and the percent of students that passed FITNESSGRAM tests.


Results: The ability of participants to pass the FITNESSGRAM tests declined markedly with age and differed between boys and girls, although the healthy fitness zones for any particular test was lower for girls. Body mass index was significantly negatively correlated with performance on all tests. Age was also statistically negatively correlated with performance on all tests; the relationship between gender and performance on the tests was less striking.


Clinical Implications: Results reflected an increase in the prevalence of overweight school children, even in New Hampshire, which is purported to be one of the healthiest states in the nation. Results offered evidence that body mass index is a valid proxy measure for fitness levels and that fitness programs are necessary to effectively combat the obesity epidemic. Evidence-based changes need to be implemented to address obesity-related factors in schools, because children spend many of their waking hours in that setting. Physical activity during recess and physical education classes could help to increase energy expenditure and develop sound minds and bodies. Schools should consider the development of school-based wellness teams to advise and advocate improved school-based wellness policies. School nurses can take an active part in these initiatives.