New NPI research shows that SNAP-Ed CalFresh Healthy Living school-based interventions are associated with better cardiovascular fitness in students

Oct 14, 2020

Daily physical activity supports youth physical and phychosocial health and is also important for obesity prevention. Schools are an important location for physical activity promotion and obesity prevention given youth spend up to half of their waking hours in school. The latest study from Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) researchers suggests that United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed, and known asCalFresh Healthy Living (CFHL) in California) physical activity interventions at school-sites are associated with slightly lower body mass index (BMI) and greater cardiovascular fitness in students compared to sites that did not receive these interventions. Further, schools with higher intervention levels had students with the highest cardiovascular fitness levels. Interventions included physical activity-related direct education, where students were actively engaged with an educator; indirect education, where students received information or resources related to physical activity; or changes to the school or district's physical activity related policies, systems, and/or environments (PSE). Student-level FitnessGram(R) data from between 2015-2016 was obtained from the California Department of Education for the study. Researchers compared BMI and student cardiovascular fitness levels from over 97,000 fifth and seventh grade students from 904 California public schools that implemented the SNAP-Ed physical activity interventions to over 372,000 fifth and seventh grade students from 3,506 California public schools that did not implement the interventions. These findings are important as the California Department of Public Health's Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Branch distributes over $50 million in CFHL funding to local health departments to implement physical activity and nutrition interventions, which primarily occur in the public school setting. Also, California has more public schools than any other US state. The study was published online in the journal Preventive Medicine Reports. The study was conducted by NPI's Hannah Thompson, Sridharshi Hewawitharana, Janice Kao, Carolyn Rider, Evan Talmage, Wendi Gosliner and Gail Woodward-Lopez in collaboration with Lauren Whetstone of the California Department of Public Health. The study was funded by the California Department of Public Health, with funding from the USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The full study is available online.