Policies for Action Hub

Project Dates: 2016-2018

The Policies for Action Research Hub co-located at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Institute for Health Research and Policy and the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis will examine nutrition and activity-related policy implementation efforts and/or policy impacts on institutions and systems serving children and adolescents as well as on their diet and activity-related outcomes.

Learn more at http://www.policiesforaction.org

Project Goals

Initially, two primary studies will employ qualitative and quantitative (survey research) methods to examine: (1) changes in the dietary content of meals served in child care centers participating in the USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Programs following implementing of revised federal meal pattern standards; and (2) the impact of state- and local-level pay-to-play policies and laws nationwide on creating disparities in children and adolescents’ opportunities for engaging in school sports programming. Additional projects are to be determined but will include a few small-scale evaluation studies of policy strategies implemented as part of the Voices for Healthy Kids (VFHK) program, a joint initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the American Heart Association.

Funded Projects

Pay-to-Play Policies on High School Sports Participation

Due to budget shortfalls, many states and school districts are implementing pay-to-play policies that allow collection of fees for participation in extracurricular activities such as school sports. The number of school districts with these policies has grown over the last decade, with some states reporting a two-fold increase. Although the extent of these policies and the amount of the fees for participation vary greatly, it seems likely that the overall effects of pay-to-pay policies may disproportionally affect low-income students.

This project aims to explore the extent to which pay-to-play policies affect high school sports participation and assess the perceived impact of these policies on sports participation among low-income high school students. This is a multi-method study that includes a literature review, state law content analysis, key informant interviews, and a nationwide survey of school district athletic directors. Information from the review, content analysis, and qualitative exploratory interviews will be used to develop an online survey to be given to a national sample of school district athletic directors. Findings can help identify and quantify current trends with pay-to-play policies and inform stakeholders and district decision makers on any disparities in sports participation related to these policies. Dissemination of findings will be tailored to academic, school, and consumer audiences.

Assessing implementation of the new USDA CACFP Meal Pattern Standards

In April 2016, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued updated standards governing the meal pattern requirements for the Child and Adult Care Food Programs (CACFP), effective October 1, 2017. The updated standards will require participating providers to serve more whole grains, a greater variety of fruits and vegetables, and reduce the amount of solid fats and added sugars (SOFAS) in meals. Understanding how and whether these standards are being implemented will provide important insight for designing interventions to facilitate universal compliance with the standards, as well as provide information for decision-makers and advocates focused on child nutrition issues.

This study will examine three key research questions:

  • Pre-implementation: How are CACFP providers planning to implement the USDA changes and what barriers do they anticipate as they plan for implementation?
  • Post-implementation: How have CACFP providers implemented the changes in practice and what barriers have they faced?
  • Pre-/Post-Comparison: What changes have been made in the offering of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and SOFAS during the first year of required implementation?
    Both key informant and survey research methods will be employed and the study will be conducted over two waves between Spring 2017 and Spring 2018.

Implications for Research and Practice

This research helps identify policies, laws, and other system and community levers in the public and private sectors that can support RWJF’s vision to build a Culture of Health.

Project Contact

Amy Eyler: Co-Principal Investigator, Washington University in St. Louis

Jamie Chriqui: Co-Principal Investigator, University of Illinois at Chicago

University of Illinois at Chicago’s  study webpage

Project Staff

Cheryl Valko, Project Manager, Washington University in St. Louis

Betsy Piekarz, Project Manager, University of Illinois at Chicago

Funding Source

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, grant number 73758