refining, implementing, and evaluating policies, programs, and other interventions relevant to childhood obesity prevention.
Federal and state leadership is needed in providing adequate and sustained resources to implement changes relevant to obesity prevention in the school environment. Not only are political will and leadership needed to improve school nutrition and physical activity opportunities, but it is critically important that adequate and sustained funding be provided to reinforce these priorities so that attention to this issue does not result in unfunded mandates.
Evaluation is vital to schools, school districts, localities, and states in determining if their initiatives are producing an impact and are effectively using the limited available resources. Currently, the evidence base on the effectiveness of school-based policy change and interventions is quite slim (Katz et al., 2005). Despite its central importance, however, limited resources to date have been devoted to evaluation efforts. As the committee heard at its Wichita symposium (Appendix F), many schools and school officials acknowledge the need for evaluations but often report that they do not have the skills, expertise, time, personnel, or financial resources to implement evaluation efforts.
One of the critical areas needing technical support and focused attention is evaluation of the effectiveness of individual programs and interventions. Individual teachers, schools, school districts, preschools, and after-school and child care programs are implementing innovative changes that need to be assessed. It is also desirable to evaluate the obesity prevention-related policies, programs, and practices of individual schools. These evaluation efforts will need to range from rigorous randomized controlled trials to determine the specific outcomes of specific interventions for specific populations to observational assessments of the associations between outcomes at all levels and the policies and practices in single classrooms, single schools, or groups of schools.
In order to initiate evaluation efforts, the committee recommends that funding be made available through CDC, USDA, and other federal agencies to provide technical assistance support through the development and dissemination of evaluation materials; the expansion of opportunities for evaluation-related training; and increases in the numbers of technical assistance personnel who are available to assist with evaluation efforts in states, localities, and school districts. Furthermore, the evaluation of obesity-prevention efforts should be made a priority and a necessary component of school-based interventions. Partnerships between schools and school dis-