Submitted to: Trade Journal Publication
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/19/2006
Publication Date: 10/10/2006
Citation: Pediatric Obesity Prevention Study Working Group (Pohl, J.F., Wong, W., Butte, N., et al.). 2006. Pediatric obesity in Texas: Does the Texas Public School Nutrition Policy affect child nutrition? Texas Medicine. 102(10):47-57. Interpretive Summary: On August 1, 2004, the Texas Department of Agriculture initiated the Texas Public School Nutrition Policy to promote a healthy food environment in public schools. The policy limited sodas, chewing gum, candy, portion size, and fatty foods being served at schools in order to combat childhood obesity in Texas. We documented the impact of the policy on school children and their parents, the food intake, health-related quality of life, and their understanding and satisfaction with the policy. Five hundred seventy-nine fourth-grade students and their parents attending public schools in the Temple Independent School District, the Belton Independent School District, and the Houston Independent School District were documented. The study showed that lunch intake varied considerably in Texas. Most encouraging, parents of minority children reported that they were more likely to change their dietary habits at home because of the policy.
Technical Abstract: A significant increase in the incidence of pediatric obesity has been reported in Texas. This study evaluated how effectively the Texas Public School Nutrition Policy promoted the understanding of proper nutrition by fourth-grade school children and their parents in three school districts in Bell County and Harris County. Fourth-grade school children were surveyed at two times (T1, T2) during the spring semester of the 2004-2005 school year to assess their dietary intake, their health-related quality of life (HRQQL), and their understanding and satisfaction with the Texas Public School Nutrition Policy. Participating students' parents also were surveyed. The overall obesity rate in surveyed children averaged 26.1%. No significant difference was found between HRQQL scores for obese and normal-weight children, although HRQQL scores for normal-weight children were significantly lower than those in previous population studies of healthy children. In addition, the HRQQL scores of obese and healthy children increased significantly from T1 to T2 for Bell County but only for healthy children in Harris County. Children from Bell County were more likely to eat food from the cafeteria while children from Harris County were more likely to eat food brought from home. Parents of minority children reported that they were more likely to change dietary habits at home as a result of the Texas Public School Nutrition Policy. Obese children were less likely than normal-weight children to try to lose weight. This study suggests that lunch intake varies considerably in Texas, and state policy should try to institute more uniform nutrition guidelines for all school districts. Because minority children are at increased risk of obesity, the preliminary findings that their parents are more likely to change their dietary habits at home are very encouraging.