Education and Human Sciences, College of (CEHS)


Date of this Version

Summer 7-30-2014


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Human Sciences, Under the Supervision of Assistant Professor Lisa Franzen-Castle. Lincoln, Nebraska: July, 2014

Copyright (c) 2014 Bryce M. Abbey


Schools possess a unique opportunity to reach a large captive audience and are becoming one of the battlegrounds for childhood obesity. To address the school environment’s role on the influence of American children’s nutritional intake and participation in physical activity, the United States (US) Federal Government adopted the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, placing an emphasis on implementation of the local school wellness policy (LSW). The purpose of this study was to examine the association between LSW and percentage of obesity in school districts within Nebraska. Aggregate district-wide body mass index (BMI) percentile data were utilized from previously collected data. LSWs were collected and analyzed from each district (n=12) participating in the study utilizing the Wellness School Assessment Tool. Cohen's kappa (κ), was used to determine if there was agreement between two policy raters. It showed substantial agreement, κ = .681 (95% CI, .632 to .730), p < .0005. District percentage of obesity was not predicted by any of the predictor variables including LSW comprehensiveness, LSW strength, percentages of students eligible for free and reduced school meals, or percentage of students registered as white. Pearson correlations of the variables showed moderate correlations that were not significant between percentage of students eligible for free and reduced school meals and district percentage of obesity (r =.364) and also a small negative correlation between percentage of students registered as White and district percentage of obesity (r = -.297) and no correlation between district percentage of obesity and either LSW comprehensiveness (r = -.003) and LSW policy strength (r = .050). Findings from this study suggest that having a comprehensive and/or strong district wellness policy may not have an effect on the percent of obesity within a school district. School districts should not believe that having a LSW will have a positive impact on the obesity rates in the district. School administrators should look to address implementation of policies that may have an influence on the school environment.

Advisor: Lisa Franzen-Castle