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Physical education in Pennsylvania public schools: stricter policy to reduce child and adult overweight and obesity

Sexton, Nanina (2020) Physical education in Pennsylvania public schools: stricter policy to reduce child and adult overweight and obesity. Master Essay, University of Pittsburgh.

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Background: Physical inactivity, overweight, and obesity are risk factors for the nation’s most common chronic diseases. In the United States, 39.8% of adults and nearly one in five youth, ages 6-19, are obese. Lax and inconsistent policy regarding physical education and physical activity in public schools is relevant to public health because physical inactivity is associated with poor physical health in a multitude of ways. States vary in the frequency, overall quantity, and type of activity they require, and for which grade levels. Some states have no requirements but they make recommendations based on guidelines from external entities. The last several decades have revealed a systematic decline in school-based physical activity due to an increased emphasis on core academic disciplines and conditional funding based on standardized test scores.
Methods: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH), and other professional organizations are primary sources of health data for Pennsylvania children and adults. The Pennsylvania Department of Education’s (DOE) School Code is the subject of this policy analysis. Pertinent research studies and reports from state agencies are reviewed here, to convey the current landscape of physical education, school-based physical activity, and policy implementation in Pennsylvania public schools.
Results: Children and adults in Pennsylvania are highly physically inactive. The adult obesity rate increased from 13.7% in 1990 to 30.9% in 2018. With regard to childhood and adolescent obesity, Pennsylvania underperformed on both corresponding Healthy People (HP) 2020 objectives. Rural youth are more likely to be overweight than urban youth, which will become increasingly problematic as the state’s rural population grows faster than the urban population. Current Pennsylvania School Code mandates physical education instruction for all grade levels but does not require a minimum frequency or amount of instruction. A three-part reform of this policy will promote increased physical activity and the monitoring of students’ fitness levels and improve accountability and adherence among schools.
Conclusion: Schools should adopt more rigorous physical education and physical activity policies as means to increase physical activity among youth. This is a systemic approach to help delay, and potentially prevent, the perpetuation of obesity-related chronic diseases.


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Item Type: Other Thesis, Dissertation, or Long Paper (Master Essay)
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Sexton, Naninanos16@pitt.edunos16
ContributionContributors NameEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairElias, Thistleelias@pitt.edueliasUNSPECIFIED
Committee MemberRepcheck, Carmacrs24@pitt.educrs24UNSPECIFIED
Date: 22 April 2020
Date Type: Submission
Number of Pages: 50
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Public Health > Behavioral and Community Health Sciences
Degree: MPH - Master of Public Health
Thesis Type: Master Essay
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: physical activity, physical education, overweight, obesity, public schools, policy
Date Deposited: 02 Sep 2020 20:21
Last Modified: 02 Sep 2020 20:21


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