Wellness Councils Build Capacity for School-Based Obesity Prevention in Harlem and Washington Heights, New York City

Melissa Pflugh Prescott, Evelyn Berger-Jenkins, Michael Serzan, Elizabeth Croswell, Dodi Meyer, Mary McCord

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Schools experience barriers when implementing wellness policies, and there is a dearth of research detailing how district wellness policies are implemented at the school level. Wellness councils were established in 7 elementary schools in Harlem and Washington Heights, New York City (NYC), to help these schools implement the NYC district wellness policy. Data on 4 wellness council process indicators and wellness council self-evaluation scores were correlated with obesity prevention process outcomes using Kendall tau correlations. An average of 8.9 (standard deviation = 0.7) wellness council meetings were held per school throughout the 10-month academic year. The average attendance at each meeting ranged from 7.1 to 15.2 members. There was a positive relationship between wellness council attendance and the number of participant encounters at staff physical activity events (r =.71, P =.02). Higher self-evaluation scores on staff wellness initiatives were associated with more student nutrition encounters (r =.69, P =.04) and in-class student physical activity minutes (r =.69, P =.04). The wellness councils served as a forum for regular interaction between health professionals and school staff and allowed for evidence-based interventions to be adapted to local school needs and culture. School staff engagement is important for successful obesity prevention initiatives and should be a goal of school-based wellness programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)131-138
Number of pages8
JournalInfant, Child, and Adolescent Nutrition
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 6 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • capacity building
  • health promotion
  • nutrition policy
  • obesity
  • school-based intervention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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