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The new results are out for the 2013-2014 years within the National Secondary School Survey Results. This survey shows the School Policies and Practices to Improve Health and Prevent Obesity findings since the 2007 studies began. Surveys from school administrators, mostly principals, were taken to measure the success and areas in need for progress in regards to diet and physical activity in schools.
The major findings revealed that schools have been making noticeable efforts in offering students healthier foods and beverages for lunch, however, many students still have easy access to sugary beverages and junk foods. Very little progress was reported for increasing physical activity among students during or after school times. In fact, physical education requirements for high school students were very minimal, and many students participation in sports or physical activity clubs remained low from the start of the study in 2007. Walking or biking to school among students was uncommon as well, according to the report.
Schools that were predominately Latino and considered in low socioeconomic status (SES) compared to those in high (SES) were less likely to:
- offer varieties of fresh fruits and vegetables for students
- offer whole grain nutritious options
- have students participate in sports programs
- share recreational facilities outside of school hours
- receive formal classroom education on nutrition, diet, or physical activity and fitness
These findings show the continual need for health and nutrition initiatives to grow in schools with predominantly more Latino students. Successfully the reports show that unhealthy foods high in fat have decreased among all schools including middle and high schools, but progress is still needed for healthier food access for Latino schools.
New standards for physical activity in schools are needed as well, as the report indicates no real increase in physical activity in schools over the years. However, 42% of Latino students were reported to walk to middle school compared to 11% whites. In fact, in both middle and high school surveys, Latinos were significantly more likely to walk to school than whites. Shared use of playgrounds and facilities for off-campus organizations and after school use were high among all schools (98-99%) but, low SES schools were less likely to offer shared use. Socioeconomic and racial/ethical disparities were evident in relation to school practices in regards to student physical activity. In sum, many students, including Latinos with the most need for exercise, had the least amount of access to physical facilities and physical activity.
Overall, the Latino population in schools is only growing in population, and studies show that Latino students are more likely to eat healthier foods if they are available and more likely to prevent obesity and diabetes with activity and a healthy diet. Offering more varieties of healthier foods and physical activity to Latino students, may help the health and future for all schools.
To read more detailed information on the findings, click here for the full report.