Development of healthy eating and physical activity quality standards for out-of-school time programs
Out-of-school time (OST) programs serve over 8 million children per year and have ample opportunity to promote health through menu and physical activity choices. Until recently, however, the field has lacked a comprehensive set of operationalizable standards for healthy eating and physical activity. The National AfterSchool Association adopted voluntary healthy eating and physical activity quality standards (HEPAQS) in April, 2011.
We describe the development of HEPAQS. This work reflects a social ecological model for changing children’s eating and activity behaviors through program-level interventions. The standards were developed using a national, mixed-methods needs assessment, review of existing standards and expert recommendations, and a participatory process of discussion, review, and consensus engaging 19 influential service and policy organizations and agencies in the Healthy Out-of-School Time (HOST) coalition, which we convened in 2009.
The HOST coalition approved a final version of the HEPAQS in January, 2011. The 11 standards address content, curriculum selection, staff training, program support, and environmental support for healthy eating and physical activity. In April, 2011, the HEPAQS were adopted by the National AfterSchool Association, and have subsequently been widely disseminated. Extensive adoption and implementation efforts are underway.
The availability of a comprehensive set of standards for healthy eating and physical activity in OST provides practical information to help community-based youth-serving organizations participate in obesity and chronic disease prevention. A working awareness of their content will be useful to scientists undertaking health promotion studies in the out-of-school time setting.