An assessment of Australian school physical activity and nutrition policies

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Abstract

Objective: This study's objective was to identify and assess existing physical activity and nutrition policies for Australian schools.

Methods: Policies were identified through a search of the websites of national and state/territory education departments and school associations, and were subsequently assessed against specific criteria.

Results: Policies were identified for government schools, but only for one non-government school association. Physical activity policies were identified at the national level and for six of eight state/territories. The national policy was mandated, and most state/territory physical activity policies were mandated and consistent with the national policy. Several physical activity policies did not meet expert recommendations for time and instructor qualifications. Nutrition policies were identified at the national level and all eight states/territories. The national policy was not mandated, but all state/territory nutrition policies were mandated and consistent with the national policy and relevant guidelines. Most physical activity and nutrition policies lacked information about implementation monitoring.

Conclusions: To improve school practices, policies are needed that are mandated and consistent with expert recommendations, use clear language, and specify monitoring and accountability mechanisms.

Implications for public health: Improvements in school policies can promote physical activity and healthy eating behaviours to positively influence student outcomes across Australia.

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