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High School Physical Activity and Nutrition Policy: Summarizing Changes over Time Using Latent Class Analysis


Blette, Bryan S.; Howard, Annie Green; & Frerichs, Leah (2019). High School Physical Activity and Nutrition Policy: Summarizing Changes over Time Using Latent Class Analysis. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 57(3), e69-76.


Introduction: High school physical activity and nutrition policies can substantially affect student behavior and outcomes. Although public health officials and legislators have advocated for policy improvements, the extent to which policies have changed at local levels is not well understood. This study identifies latent classes of physical activity and nutrition policy environments and explores changes in prevalence of these classes from 2000 to 2016.
Methods: Data from the School Health Policies and Practices Study, a repeated cross-sectional survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention administered at the school district level in 2000, 2006, 2012, and 2016, were analyzed in 2018. Using latent class analysis, policy environment subgroups were identified, described, and then dichotomized based on satisfaction in meeting recommendations. Associations of latent classes with year and urbanicity were evaluated using logistic regression.
Results: Five latent classes were identified each for physical activity and nutrition policy environments, all with distinct characteristics. Physical activity policies improved from 2000 to 2006 (p<0.001) and then plateaued until 2016, whereas nutrition policies improved consistently from 2000 to 2016 (p<0.001, p=0.011, p<0.001). Though significant disparities between urban and rural school districts were found, these disparities narrowed during the studied years, particularly for physical activity policies.
Conclusions: The estimated proportion of school districts with satisfactory physical activity and nutrition policy environments increased from 2000 to 2016, possibly because of legislative and policy advocacy efforts. However, many areas for improvement remain. Unsatisfactory latent classes that remained prevalent though 2016 may highlight policy domains that should be targeted by future interventions or subject to further research.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

American Journal of Preventive Medicine


Blette, Bryan S.
Howard, Annie Green
Frerichs, Leah