CASE STUDY: Network for a Healthy California, Los Angeles Unified School District
Program Evaluation / 2010-2013
Childhood overweight and obesity are challenging issues that lead to a cascade of negative health outcomes both during childhood and adulthood. While we know that healthy eating and physical activity are essential to preventing and addressing childhood obesity, creating lasting behavior change in these areas has proven difficult.
In 2010, Sentient Research was contracted as the program evaluator for the US Department of Agriculture (USDA)-funded Network for a Healthy California–LAUSD. This multi-component program aimed to increase healthy eating and physical activity among low-income elementary, middle, and high school students in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). Each year, this massive program included the participation of nearly 300 LAUSD schools, over 8,000 teachers, and nearly one-quarter of a million students.
Sentient Research coordinated and conducted the evaluation of this program for 3 consecutive years. Utilizing a quasi-experimental design with pre- and post-measures, we collected data from a matched sample of over 1,000 students in intervention and control schools annually. Twelve schools were randomly selected to receive the survey each fall and spring, in over 40 classrooms. Data were reported annually to the USDA and to Network staff, with recommendations for improvements to the program.
In addition, Sentient Research conducted a mixed-methods online survey of over 1,000 participating teachers, principals, and school nurses each year to provide a report with recommendations to Network staff as part of the program’s plan for continual program improvement. Sentient Research also conducted focus groups with LAUSD parent center coordinators to test the feasibility of different nutrition program activities in an effort to find new ways to increase healthy eating and physical activity among students and their families. We also worked with Network staff to create a more community-focused program, including forging partnerships with outside organizations and local businesses to increase the reach of the program outside of the classroom.