Characteristics Associated With School Nurse Childhood Obesity Prevention Practices

Susan B. Quelly


Pediatr Nurs. 2017;43(4):193-199. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Nearly one-third of children in the United States (U.S.) are overweight or obese and at a higher risk for numerous comorbidities. School nurses are idealy positioned to contribute to strategic childhood obesity prevention (COP) efforts, but there are substantial variations with their involvement in COP practices. The research question posed was: "Are personal, professional, and/or job-related characteristics associated with school nurse engagement in child-level or school-level childhood obesity prevention practices?" In this descriptive cross-sectional study, Florida school nurses (N = 171) were recruited via email and two professional conferences to complete an anonymous online or paper survey. Items included questions about various characteristics and how often they performed certain COP practices. Engagement in COP practices was measured on a Likert-type scale with response options of 1 = never; 2 = rarely; 3 = sometimes; 4 = often. Data analyses included correlations, t tests, and ANOVA to determine associations between personal, professional, and job-related characteristics with child-level and school-level school nurse COP practices. Significant associations (p < 0.05) were found between school nurse COP practices and professional characteristics that indicated additional education (i.e., highest nursing degree, COP education, professional organization membership, and national certified school nurse certification). The number of students provided care, age, years in current position, and experience as a nurse and school nurse positively correlated to child-level COP practices, while socioeconomic levels of school(s) were inversely correlated to these practices. Findings support the need for funding and providing additional COP educational opportunities to increase school nurse involvement in preventing childhood obesity.


Childhood obesity is a serious widespread health problem that must be addressed on numerous fronts, including the school environment. Nurses providing care to children in schools are well situated to actively engage in a comprehensive effort to prevent childhood obesity. Because participation in childhood obesity prevention (COP) practices varies substantially among school nurses, identifying key characteristics that are significantly associated with performing these practices is important. These findings may direct policy changes and support interventions to increase school nurse involvement in preventing childhood obesity.