Creating a school nutrition environment index and pilot testing it in elementary and middle schools in urban South Korea

Sohyun Park, Kwang Il Kwon, Soon Ju Kweon, Youfa Wang, Joel Gittelsohn

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Abstract

BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVES: The role of a school’s nutrition environment in explaining students’ eating behaviors and weight status has not been examined in an Asian setting. The purpose of this study was to create a school nutrition environment index and to pilot test the index in elementary and middle schools in urban South Korea. SUBJECTS/METHODS: This study used a mixed-methods approach. Environment assessment tools were developed based on formative research, which comprised literature reviews, in-depth interviews, and focus group discussions. Key elements from the formative research were included in the assessment tool, which consisted of a structured survey questionnaire for school dietitians. Fifteen school dietitians from 7 elementary and 8 middle schools in Seoul completed the questionnaire. RESULTS: The formative research revealed four main sections that guided a summary index to assess a school’s nutrition environment: resource availability, education and programs, dietitians’ perceptions and characteristics, and school lunch menu. Based on the literature reviews and interviews, an index scoring system was developed. The total possible score from the combined four index sections was 40 points. From the 15 schools participating in the pilot survey, the mean school nutrition-environment index was 22.5 (standard deviation ± 3.2; range 17-28). The majority of the schools did not offer classroom-based nutrition education or nutrition counseling for students and parents. The popular modes of nutrition education were school websites, posters, and newsletters. CONCLUSIONS: This paper illustrates the process used to develop an instrument to assess a school’s nutrition environment. Moreover, it presents the steps used to develop a scoring system for creation of a school nutrition environment index. As pilot testing indicated the total index score has some variation across schools, we suggest applying this instrument in future studies involving a larger number of schools. Future studies with larger samples will allow investigation of the validity and reliability of this newly developed tool.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)402-411
Number of pages10
JournalNutrition Research and Practice
Volume11
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2017

Keywords

  • Environment
  • Republic of Korea
  • Schools

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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