Objective: There is a need to identify strategies that enhance the implementation of evidence-based school wellness interventions in real-world settings. The present study evaluates the feasibility of empowering school wellness leaders to deliver an evidence-based, childhood obesity-prevention initiative called SWITCH™ (School Wellness Integration Targeting Child Health). We specifically evaluated the utility of a new implementation process, based on the robust Healthy Youth Places (HYP) framework, to increase capacity of school leaders to lead SWITCH™ school wellness programming.
Description: The implementation process was piloted in a convenience sample of eight Iowa elementary schools. Teams of three leaders from each school attended an in-person school wellness conference, followed by five online webinar sessions delivered by two trained facilitators. The capacity building and quality improvement process was designed to empower schools to lead school wellness change using methods and concepts from the original 12-week SWITCH™ program. School coordinators completed checklists on two occasions to assess overall school-level implementation as well as setting-level changes in physical education, classrooms, and lunchroom. Student acceptability of SWITCH™ was evaluated by the degree of behavior tracking within the online SWITCH™ “Tracker” system that promoted self-monitoring.
Evaluation: All school staff reported satisfaction with the SWITCH™ implementation process. Reports of school- and setting-level implementation were relatively high (2.0 to 2.8 on a 3.0-point scale) but student engagement (based on use of the online tracking system) varied greatly over time and across schools. Three high-implementation schools had average tracking rates exceeding 70% (range: 72–90%) while three low-implementation schools had rates lower than 30% (range: 0–23%).
Conclusions and Implications: This feasibility study supports the utility of the new implementation framework for promoting school and student engagement with SWITCH™. Further testing regarding effectiveness and scale-up of this evidence-based school wellness intervention is warranted.
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