The Challenge: In 2007, the Mississippi legislature enacted the Healthy Students Act (SB 2369) in an attempt to reduce childhood obesity. One condition of this legislation was to require a minimum period of physical activity-based instruction for school-aged children (grades K-8) and specific levels for high school graduation. However, not all schools, particularly those in predominantly rural, low-income, racially concentrated communities are meeting the in-school physical activity (ISPA) requirements.
Make an impact: The underlying assumption is that when the Healthy Students Act activity and nutritional requirements are met, students will accumulate the recommended amount of ISPA and engage in dietary practices to prevent and reduce childhood obesity and improve overall health.
What the findings are about: This research brief provides a synthesis of research conducted in Mississippi regarding ISPA, student weight status, academic achievement, and the Healthy Student Act. Policy implications for the State of Mississippi are identified.
Key Findings and Recommendations:
An obesity disparity gap between African American and White students exists statewide.
ISPA promotes student academic achievement; hence, a good investment in the future of public education may be through an investment in enhancing student fitness.
Mississippi Delta schools with the highest proportions of obesity do not have ISPA policies that reflects the Healthy Students Act.
Approximately 44% of the schools studied did not have a recess policy.
School-level PE policies reflect an average 75-minutes per week of PE which is half of the required number of minutes mandated by the Healthy Students Act.
Students would like to be active at school and Mississippi Delta schools with the highest proportions of obesity have the most active students when given the opportunity.
Most Mississippi Delta school personnel recognize the importance of ISPA for academic success but acknowledge there are challenges. Despite these challenges, there are schools in the Mississippi Delta with successful ISPA programs that meet State mandates.
An important component of a successful ISPA program is having a principal that serves as an “ISPA champion” and plays an integral role in creating a school culture that values ISPA. The principals’ excitement inspires teachers and students to support ISPA.
Gamble, A., Hallam, J.S., & Cormack, M.L. (2014). Mississippi In-School Physical Activity Policy. Jackson, MS: University of Mississippi Medical Center. Available from: www.activelivingresearch.org.