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Journal Issue: Childhood Obesity Volume 16 Number 1 Spring 2006

The Role of Schools in Obesity Prevention
Mary Story Karen M. Kaphingst Simone French

Schools as Work Sites

Schools are one of the nation's largest employers, with approximately 4 percent of the total U.S. workforce.121  In 2001, nearly 6 million teachers and staff worked in the public school system.122  The school setting thus holds great promise for their health promotion. Built-in advantages in this setting include fitness facilities, food service personnel, nursing and counseling staff, and health and physical education staff.123  Work site health promotion could encourage staff and teachers to value nutrition and physical activity more highly and to heighten their commitment to adopting and implementing related programs for their students.124  Faculty and staff who practice health-promoting behaviors could also be role models for students.125

Work site health promotion for faculty and staff is also part of the coordinated school health program recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It can include health screenings, health education, employee assistance programs, and health care.126  But school districts lag behind other major employers in offering work site programs.127 In schools, as in other work sites, successful programs require an involved, committed, and supportive administration.128

The SHPPS 2000 survey provides the first comprehensive data on work site programs.129  Not one state requires districts or schools to fund or sponsor nutrition and dietary counseling, physical activity and fitness counseling, or programs such as walking or jogging clubs for teachers and staff. More districts and schools should implement or strengthen work site health promotion. And researchers should seek out interventions conducted in these settings to identify and replicate best practices.130