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Projects

The Maryland School Wellness Partnership conducts public health research focusing on school wellness throughout Maryland. Our mission is to enhance opportunities for healthy eating and physical activity for Maryland students by helping schools and school systems create and implement strong and comprehensive written wellness policies. Through current and past funding by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Maryland Community Health Resources Commission, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and in collaboration with our partners, our projects aim to determine as well as inform the public of the best practices for school wellness.

Maryland Wellness Policies and Practices:

The Maryland Wellness Policies and Practices Project (MWPPP) uses a continuous quality improvement model to enhance wellness policy implementation in schools throughout Maryland. Specifically, assessments are conducted with Maryland schools and school systems, tailored system-level data and evidence-based recommendations are shared with school systems, and technical assistance is provided. This process is repeated every two years. The MWPPP team is getting ready to collect its third round of data from school year 2016-2017.


Since the initiation of the written “Local Wellness Policy” mandate by the federal government in 2004 and 2010 (Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act; Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act), school systems in Maryland have developed a wide range of policies supporting student wellness. Maryland Wellness Policies and Practices Project uses a continuous quality improvement model to enhance wellness policy implementation in schools throughout Maryland.  Specifically, assessments are conducted with Maryland schools and school systems, tailored system-level data and evidence-based recommendations are shared with school systems, and technical assistance is provided.

MWPPP objectives are to:

  • Evaluate the quality of written wellness policies (strength and comprehensiveness)
  • Evaluate the implementation of wellness policies on the system and school-level  
  • Evaluate the impact of wellness policies and policy implementation on child health and academic outcomes
  • Provide technical assistance for schools and school systems to support positive changes in wellness policy implementation. 

The intended outcomes of the MWPPP are to improve the strength and comprehensiveness of wellness policies and to improve wellness policy implementation in hopes that it will lead to healthier school environments, improved diet, and physical activity behaviors in school children to ultimately reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity.

Approach Continuous Quality Improvement graphic

TEAM

Diana Rubio
Project Coordinator
University of Maryland, School of Medicine
drubio@peds.umaryland.edu

Erin Hager, Ph.D.
Principal Investigator
University of Maryland, School of Medicine

INSTITUTIONAL PARTNERS

  • Maryland State Department of Education
  • Maryland Department Health and Mental Hygiene
  • University of Maryland College Park Prevention Research Center

Funding

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Cooperative Agreement #5U58DP003497 and Grant #B01OT009105
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Prevention Research Centers Program, Cooperative Agreement #U48DP001929 and Special Interest Project #12-062 with the University of Maryland Prevention Research Center

Wellness Champions for Change Pilot Study:

The Wellness Champions for Change (WCC) Pilot Study was funded by the USDA through a Team Nutrition Grant awarded to MSDE in partnership with UMSOM and the University of Maryland Extension. With this pilot funding, we developed a curriculum for training school-level “Wellness Champions” (teachers or staff members who lead a school-based wellness team charged with implementing the school system’s wellness policy) and evaluated the impact of this approach on school-level wellness policy implementation.


The aim of the Wellness Champions for Change Pilot Study was to enhance school-level wellness policy implementation through training Wellness Champions and providing technical assistance to schools and school systems. The Wellness Champions for Change project provided training, technical assistance and resources to five of Maryland’s Local Education Agency’s (LEA’s) to support building a healthier school environment through the development of Wellness Teams. Each LEA had a portion of the participating schools receive the training, technical assistance, and a stipend. Other schools only received the training and stipend and some solely received the stipend. Throughout this project, training and technical assistance focused on implementing and monitoring LWPs at the school-level.

Wellness Champions for Change Pilot Study Chart

TEAM

Megan Lopes
Team Nutrition Grant Coordinator
Maryland State Department of Education
megan.sweatlopes@maryland.gov

Erin Hager, Ph.D.
Evaluation Team Lead

University of Maryland, School of Medicine
ehager@peds.umaryland.edu

Patsy Ezell, Ph.D.
Intervention Team Lead
University of Maryland Extension

Liat Mackey, RDN
Co-Investigators & Wellness Specialist Supervisor
University of Maryland Extension

Shauna Henley, Ph.D.
Co-Investigators & Wellness Specialist, Baltimore County
University of Maryland Extension

Lisa McCoy, RD
Co-Investigators & Wellness Specialist, Washington County
University of Maryland Extension

INSTITUTIONAL PARTNERS

  • University of Maryland Extension
  • University of Maryland, College Park
  • Johns Hopkins School of Public Health

Funding 

  • Maryland's USDA- Team Nutrition 2014-2016

Wellness Champions for Change:

Wellness Champions for Change (WCC) is a five year project funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). This project has two main goals: to bring together teams of teachers, administrators, staff and parents to carry out the school system’s wellness policy, and to empower students to advocate for a health-promoting school environment and encourage their peers to make healthy decisions. We will examine the impact of these efforts on student diet, physical activity and obesity. In this project, we will work with elementary and middle schools throughout the state of Maryland.

Wellness Champions for Change Logo


The overall goal of the Wellness Champions for Change project is to create health-promoting school environments that support healthy growth and aid in the prevention of childhood obesity.  Our approach involves enhancing school-level wellness policy implementation through training teachers and students to be Wellness Champions (WC) and providing technical assistance to schools and school systems. This project is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture.

WCC Objectives are to:

  • Evaluate the impact of a school-based intervention (to enhance implementation of LWP’s) on health behaviors (diet and physical activity ) and weight status of elementary and middle school students
  • Evaluate the added impact of a student-led school based intervention
  • Examine factors in the home and school-neighborhood environments that moderate the impact of the intervention on health behavior and weight status
  • Examine the reach the reach and fidelity of the intervention when disseminated

Each school system will have a portion of the participating schools receive a Student Wellness Champion curriculum, training for their Wellness Team, as well as technical assistance provided by a Wellness Specialist. The Student Wellness Champion curriculum is designed for student leaders (5th and 8th graders) to learn how to become advocates for health at their schools. Other schools will only receive the training and technical assistance and some will solely receive resources. Throughout this project, training and technical assistance will focus on implementing and monitoring Local Wellness Policies at the school-level. In order to measure our success, we will conduct evaluations on a group of students (3rd and 6th graders at the time of recruitment) from all participating schools. These students will be followed for 2.5 years.

Wellness Champions for Change Diagram

TEAM

Rachel Deitch, M.S, CHES
Project Coordinator

University of Maryland, School of Medicine
rdeitch@peds.umaryland.edu

Erin Hager, Ph.D.
Principal Investigator

University of Maryland, School of Medicine

Hannah Lane, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Fellow
University of Maryland, School of Medicine

‌PARTNERS

  • MSDE
  • DHMH
  • University of Maryland Extension
    • Liat Mackey
    • Patsy Ezell
    • Shauna Henley
  • Cornell University extension
    • Sandra Cuellar
    • Katie Baildon 
  • University of Maryland, College Park
    • Brit Saksvig
    • Hee-Jung Song
    • Linda Aldoory
  • Johns Hopkins School of Public Health
    • Kristen Hurley
  • Boise State University
    • Lindsey Turner
  • University of Southern California
    • Genevieve Dunton

Funding

USDA NIFA/AFRI Childhood Obesity Grant 2016-68001-24927

  • 03/01/2016-02/28/2021
  • "Approaches to Enhancing Wellness Policy Implementation in Schools to Promote Healthy Behaviors and Prevent Obesity"

University of Maryland School of Medicine Program in Health Disparities and Population Health 

  • 01/31/2017-12/31/2017
  • SEED Grant 

Healthiest Maryland Schools:

Healthiest Maryland Schools implements evidence based interventions in schools, works directly with parents and caregivers, and trains medical staff in the Pediatrics at Midtown Primary Care Clinic. This project aims to increase opportunities for healthy eating and active living among children in West Baltimore schools. The Healthiest Maryland Schools project has expanded to six schools this year, and is continuing to increase its reach throughout Maryland.

Healthiest Maryland Schools logo


The Healthiest Maryland Schools, funded by the Maryland Community Health Resources Commission through 2017, is an inter-professional collaborative aimed at reducing the prevalence of childhood obesity. To meet this goal, we are implementing multi-level evidence based interventions within elementary schools, working directly with parents and caregivers, and training medical staff in the Pediatrics at Midtown Primary Care Clinic. The focus is on increasing opportunities for Healthy Eating/Active Living among Kindergarten - grade 5 children in West Baltimore schools.

The Healthiest Maryland Schools Program works through collaborations with school administrators and staff to promote a culture of health and wellness. Students from the University of Maryland, Baltimore, serve as Health Leaders (i.e. mentors) in after-school programs, implementing two evidence based interventions; Coordinated Approach to Child Health (CATCH), and Hip Hop to Health (HH2H). Each lesson includes health/nutrition education, physical activity, and a healthy snack prepared by the children. The Healthiest Maryland Schools Program supports the families, children, and communities by offering family health and fitness nights, health fairs, and other health eating/active living opportunities at the schools.

Outside of the school, the Healthiest Maryland Schools provides opportunities for families to engage in Healthy Eating/Active Living activities coordinated by the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), an evidence based program, facilitated by the University of Maryland Extension. We also partner with Dr. Rebecca Carter at Pediatrics at Midtown (MORE)

Overall, the Healthiest Maryland Schools supports a culture of health and wellness with school communities. As a demonstration project, results will be shared throughout the state.

FACULTY & STAFF

Salma Sharaf 
Project Coordinator
University of Maryland, School of Medicine
ssharaf@peds.umaryland.edu

Erin Hager, Ph.D.
Principal Investigator
University of Maryland, School of Medicine

Rebecca Carter, MD
Co-Investigator
University of Maryland, School of Medicine

Funding

  • Maryland State Community Health Resources Commission: Supporting Community Health Resourcse: Building Capacity and Expanding Access to Care for Marylanders 2014-2017
  • Carefirst Community Grant 2015-2017

Childcare:

In addition to our work with schools, our partnership also works to enhance the health promoting environment in childcare settings throughout Maryland. Two specific projects are ongoing: the Maryland Child Care Wellness Policies and Practices Project and Maryland’s Building Blocks for Healthier Children.


Child Care Wellness Policies and Practices

The Child Care Wellness Policies and Practices Project (CWPPP) began in the fall of 2014 in anticipation of the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) meal pattern changes stemming from the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Funded by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH), the CWPPP surveyed Maryland child care centers to determine (1) factors associated with wellness best practices and (2) changes in adherence to wellness best practices over time.

The initial CWPPP survey was administered to Maryland child care center directors between November 2014-March 2015, with subsequent semi-structured interviews conducted with a small sample of directors representing a diverse range of centers following the survey.  Based on data collected, a guide was developed for child care professional development providers, "Making Wellness Work In Early Care and Education" which was launched at a state-wide child care meeting in the spring of 2016. The CACFP meal pattern changes were introduced in the summer of 2016.  A second CWPPP survey is under development.

TEAM

Erin Hager, Ph.D.
Principal Investigator
University of Maryland, School of Medicine
ehager@peds.umaryland.edu

Maureen Black, Ph.D.
Co-Investigator
University of Maryland, School of Medicine

Sara Kilby, MPH
Former Project Coordinator
Maryland State Department of Education

Kristen Bussel, NP
Doctoral Student, Research Assistant
University of Maryland, School of Nursing

PARTNERS

  • MSDE
  • DHMH

Maryland’s Building Blocks for Healthier Children

Pilot funding from a USDA Team Nutrition grant allowed for the development and center-level evaluation of a multi-level intervention aimed at enhancing the health-promoting environment of low-income child care centers.  Through subsequent NIDDK R01 funding, we are developing an added family component and will fully evaluate the impact of all intervention components on student-level health outcomes.

TEAM

Raquel Arbaiza, M.S
Project Coordinator
University of Maryland, School of Medicine
rarbaiza@peds.umaryland.edu

Maureen Black, Ph.D.
Principal Investigator
University of Maryland, School of Medicine

Erin Hager
Bridget Armstrong, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Fellow
University of Maryland, School of Medicine

Project SELECT:

Maryland’s 2016 Team Nutrition grant, Project SELECT in Middle Schools, is a three year study that will focus on improving schools’ lunch and breakfast participation, student’s vegetable sub-group selection, and implementation of local wellness policies. Using the available funding awarded to MSDE, UMSOM will be evaluating a cafeteria intervention and a nutrition intervention in select counties in Maryland to monitor for changes that may result from the implementation of these interventions. In this study, we will work with school nutrition professionals and children in middle schools across Maryland.

Project SELECT (Student Engagement, Lunchroom Environment, & Culinary Training) in Middle Schools will develop and implement local training and technical assistance to school nutrition professionals regarding food service operations, culinary skills, and Smarter Lunchrooms strategies. Maryland will develop a nutrition education toolkit targeted to middle and high school students, and train teachers to implement lessons and activities. Students and parents/family will participant in school meals and food tasting evaluations to inform menu development, as well as, the preparation and presentation of foods. A parent and family wellness toolkit will be developed and disseminated to support local wellness policy implementation at the school level. All activities will be evaluated to assess the impact on: a) schools’ lunch and breakfast participation and vegetable sub-group (dark green, red/orange, beans/peas) selection; b) students’ consumption and selection of vegetable sub-groups; and c) implementation of local wellness policies.

 

Maryland has selected Project SELECT in Middle Schools to assist students participating in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs with meeting the recommendations set forth in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans by providing appealing and nutritious meals, nutrition education and school environments that are conducive to healthy eating.

 

TEAM

Katie Campbell, MPH

Project Coordinator

University of Maryland, School of Medicine

Kcampbell@peds.umaryland.edu

Erin Hager, Ph.D.
Principal Investigator
University of Maryland, School of Medicine

 

INSTITUTIONAL PARTNERS

 
Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE)

University of Maryland Extension Food Supplement Nutrition Education (FSNE)

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed)

Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH)