Energy Balance in Schools

Healthy Schools Partnership

With the obesity epidemic affecting 16 percent of our nation’s schoolchildren, our goal is to help children ages six to 11 gain knowledge and develop lifelong positive physical activity and nutrition habits through a school-based curriculum. The Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation has selected the Healthy Schools Partnership as its model program to reach our future generation. The foundation is funding the Healthy Schools Partnership with a multi-year grant to expand and replicate the program beyond its pilots in the Kansas City Metropolitan Area to reach schools in Des Moines, IA.

The Healthy Schools Partnership is a new model of approaching nutrition and physical education developed through a partnership of the American Council for Fitness and Nutrition Foundation, American Dietetic Association Foundation and PE4life with the purpose of developing long-term solutions to the youth obesity epidemic. The Healthy Schools Partnership is an innovative school-based program designed to integrate a nutrition curriculum into the PE4life physical education program for a cutting-edge approach to engage today’s children, using gaming technology to encourage students to learn while they play. The Healthy Schools Partnership matches a Registered Dietician (RD) nutrition coach with a PE4life teacher, to teach children that the calories they eat and the calories they expend must be in balance.

Measuring Our Progress

The University of California, Berkeley Center for Weight and Health will evaluate the progress of the pilot communities over a three-year period. The following will be measured and evaluated:

  • Student knowledge, attitudes and behavior regarding energy balance to maintain a healthy weight (physical and nutrition education)
  • Impact of the program on fitness scores and BMI measures
  • Improved food behavior in school lunch through the use of digital photography of lunch trays pre- and post- intervention
  • Increased physical activity on weekdays through the use of accelerometers pre- and post-intervention.

Researchers will also assess the value of the Healthy Schools Partnership among schools administrators, teachers and foodservice personnel, and changes in the schools environment associated with the program. Additionally, training academies will support a “train the trainer” approach in order to expand outreach and impact.

Pilot Program: Kansas City and Des Moines Metro Areas


The Healthy Schools Partnership program launched a pilot program in four Kansas City schools in the fall of 2007, and four additional schools in 2008, reaching nearly 2,000 students in grades 4-9. During the six and eight-week interventions of the Healthy Schools Partnership, nutrition curriculum was seamlessly integrated into each school’s existing PE4life physical education model by overlaying nutrition messaging and images, games and individual nutrition coaching with students to yield successful results in nutrition knowledge and reported changes in eating behaviors. Kansas City’s Healthy Schools Partnership expansion will begin this fall.

The Healthy School Partnership pilot program was also expanded to include four schools in Des Moines, IA, with full implementation scheduled by Fall 2010. Expansion programs to reach more than 40 Des Moines area schools will also begin in the fall.

Pilot Program Top Line Accomplishments
  • Pre- and post evaluations of the Registered Dietician nutrition coach component of the program recorded a statistically significant increase in the knowledge and awareness of the key nutrition messages.
  • Logs kept by the Registered Dietician coaches documented many examples of students reporting dietary behavior changes they had made at home that positively impacted the entire family.
Des Moines, IA

Implementation will be completed by fall 2010.

Students reactions to the program:
"Before I didn’t worry about nutrition, but now I’m active and eat the right choices." — 5th grader "If you eat more than a serving of the same food, you eat more calories." — 6th grader "I have eaten more fruits and I walk my dog more." — 6th grader