Due to the growing costs of health care, public health and private organizations develop complex initiatives to encourage healthy behaviors and lifestyles. This paper analyzes the validity, reliability, and efficiency of the Thriving Schools website. At the center of this analysis is physical activity as one of the most important goals of Healthy People 2020. The paper includes the analysis of its importance for public health, the health behavior model used to develop behavioral strategies, as well as the analysis of limitations and recommendations to improve the website content.
The growing costs of health care imply the need to promote public health. Numerous preventive strategies are developed to facilitate the provision of adequate social support and motivate society to lead a healthier lifestyle. Physical activity is claimed to be an essential factor in improved public health. It is rightly considered as one of the central goals of Healthy People 2020. With the rapid advancement of the Internet, the public is exposed to a huge amount of information about the importance of physical activity and its health outcomes. The goal of this paper is to evaluate the effectiveness, validity, and reliability of the physical activity recommendations offered by the Thriving Schools health education website.
Promoting healthy lifestyles
The Thriving Schools website is designed to promote healthy lifestyles among children and adults. The website targets a wide range of behaviors, from healthy eating to physical activity in the public school system. It is sponsored by Kaiser Permanente, an organization that positions itself as the leading provider of quality health support to businesses. Moreover, it is considered that “Thriving Schools is a national effort to improve the health of students, staff, and teachers in K-12 schools by making the healthy choice the easy choice”. Teachers, students, and school principals are the primary target audience for Thriving Schools. Apart from offering a number of ready-to-use tools and resources for better health, Thriving Schools also develop partnerships with teachers, principals, schools administrators, students, parents, and other stakeholders. Increased physical activity among students and teachers is one of the primary goals the Thriving Schools project seeks to achieve, and essayswriters.com is the one who cares most about the writing assignments and students’ grades.
The Thriving Schools website provides health, educational, and motivational materials to encourage physical activity in public school students and teachers. Recommendations are provided to initiate and sustain a positive change in health behaviors. The Thriving Schools website provides separate recommendations for students and a number of proposals for teachers and staff. It is possible to assume that the project recognizes the differences in the physical activity needs, goals, and priorities facing different school system stakeholders.
A useful thing about the Thriving Schools website is that it specifies the health outcomes the project is designed to achieve. Among many health outcomes targeted by Thriving Schools are better discipline, improved academic achievement, improved student health, improved attention, and focus, as well as higher attendance levels. At the teachers’ level, Thriving Schools aims to facilitate recruitment and retention in schools, provide employees with greater wellness and physical activity opportunities in the workplace, and reduce the amount of stress facing educational personnel at work.
The goal of healthy people
Thriving Schools is just one of the many projects supporting the physical activity goal of Healthy People 2020. In addition, the goal of Healthy People 2020 is to improve fitness, health, and quality of life and wellbeing through the increased physical. According to Healthy People, more than 80 percent of adult Americans fail to meet even the basic guidelines for physical activity. The situation with adolescent populations is no better. PA-1 is one of the Healthy People 2020 objectives most closely related to the Thriving Schools mission – to reduce the proportion of adults who do not participate in any physical. PA-3 is another objective that is closely related to Thriving Schools – to increase the number and proportion of adolescents who engage in aerobic physical and muscle-strengthening activities and meet the basic standards of physical activity at the Federal.
The public health significance of increased physical activity can hardly be overstated. According to Healthy People, physical activity can improve the quality of life and wellbeing greatly in the United States since it lowers the risks of early death, reduces the incidence of stroke, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, and depression, and holds a promise to prevent the development of Type 2 Diabetes and breast cancer. Physical activity has proved to improve children’s and adults’ muscular fitness, physical health, and bone health. In support of these findings, Janssen and LeBlanc conducted a systematic review of the public benefits of physical activity in children and adolescents. The results confirm that physical activity is directly associated with health. Among the numerous public health benefits of physical activity are reduced levels of cholesterol, lower blood lipids, reduced blood pressure, lower incidence of metabolic syndrome, improved bone mineral density, and lower risks of depression. For example, unfit girls are 1.89 times more likely to have hypercholesterolemia than the girls who regularly participate in physical activity. Certainly, the complexity of the physical activity-disease links and the methodological ambiguities surrounding many studies should not be ignored. According to Haskell et al., linking physical activity to mortality and morbidity from various chronic health conditions is not always possible since “for many conditions, few randomized trials of adequate design have been conducted.” However, the link between physical activity and public health is similar to that of non-smoking or healthy eating and health outcomes. Even in the absence of extensive empirical evidence, the fact that physical activity is useful for individual and public health remains obvious.
The goal of reducing risk factorsPhoto by Yan Krukov from Pexels
The Thriving Schools website does not include any clear reference to either risk or protective factors that could impede or enhance the implementation of its physical activity and health initiatives. The project relies mostly on the importance of reducing the risk factors of obesity, low academic achievement, low self-esteem in students, and high organizational costs in public schools due to physical inactivity. An interesting question is whether physical activity itself can be treated as either risk or protective factor of improved wellbeing. According to Raum, Rothenbacher, Ziegler, and Brenner, both the absence of physical activity and its excess increase the risks of cardiovascular disease later in life. Simultaneously, it is an important protective factor for disordered eating and overweight in adolescents and young adults.
Theory of planned behavior
The physical activity interventions recommended at the Thriving School website are based on the Theory of Planned Behavior. Glanz, Rimer, and Viswanath consider that the theory of planned behavior incorporates the following constructs: attitude, intention, perceived behavioral control, and subjective norm. The recommended physical activity interventions are designed to strengthen individual intention to engage in fitness activities while developing positive physical activity attitudes and empowering students and teachers to exercise full control over their physical activity behaviors. Based on what Hagger, Chatzisarantis, and Biddle write, perceive behavioral control remains the strongest predictor of physical activity attitudes and intentions. The physical activity initiatives described on the Thriving Schools website reflect an evidence-based notion that personal motivational judgments are more important than social pressures in promoting physical activity.
The reliability, validity, and completeness of the content raise a number of questions. On the one hand, the authors of the Thriving Schools initiative cite empirical evidence to justify the quality and consistency of their physical activity recommendations. On the other hand, it is too early to say that the proposed policy recommendations are effective enough to induce a sustained positive change in students’ and teachers’ mentality. For example, the Thriving Schools initiative includes recommendations to develop a walking-to-school policy and walking school bus models. However, according to McDonald, walking policies alone cannot change students’ travel behaviors. Also, the implementation of walking school buses alone may not change students’ physical activity preferences and intentions. Finally, the relationship between physical activity and school performance remains questionable. Singh, Uijtdewilligen, Twisk, Mechelen, and Chinapaw conducted a systematic review of the literature and identified only two high-quality studies that confirmed the positive impacts of physical activity on performance at school. What is needed is to explore the relational and environmental factors that could potentially moderate the physical activity-school performance relationship and identify new factors that could strengthen students’ and teachers’ intention to be active.
The limitations of the Thriving Schools project should not be ignored. Getting back to the Theory of Planned Behavior, one of its primary limitations is that it ignores the availability of various resources and the presence of numerous barriers on one’s way to a better life. While the Thriving Schools project encourages students and teachers to be physically active, it does not provide any information on how the target audience could overcome the most common barriers to improved health and wellbeing. Such information could help students and teachers to overcome these problems quickly. Moreover, it could create a more realistic picture of living a physically active life.
In conclusion, physical activity is an important factor in improved individual and public health. The analysis of the Thriving Schools website confirms that physical activity remains one of the top health priorities in the country. Substantial evidence confirms the positive effects of physical activity on health and its power to prevent chronic health conditions. Still, additional research is needed to analyze the factors, which could moderate the relationship between physical activity and health.
Featured Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay