Background: Little is known about the contribution of school contextual factors to individual student body mass index (BMI). We set out to determine if school characteristics/resources: (1) are associated with student BMI; (2) explain racial/ ethnic disparities in student BMI; and (3) explain school-level differences in student BMI. Methods: Using gender-stratified multi-level modeling strategies we examined the association of school characteristics/ resources and individual BMI in 4,387 5th graders in the Healthy Passages Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Additionally, we examined the association of race/ethnicity and individual BMI as well as the between-school variance in BMI before and after adding individual and school characteristics to test for attenuation. Results: The school-level median household income, but not physical activity or nutrition resources, was inversely associated with female BMI (β = -0.12, CI: -0.21,-0.02). Neither school demographics nor physical activity/nutrition resources were predictive of individual BMI in males. In Black females, school characteristics attenuated the association of race/ethnicity and BMI. Individual student characteristics-not school characteristics/resources-reduced the between-school variation in BMI in males by nearly one-third and eliminated it in females. Conclusions: In this cohort of 5th graders, school SES was inversely associated with female BMI while school characteristics and resources largely explained Black/White disparities in female weight status. Between-school differences in average student weight status were largely explained by the composition of the student body not by school characteristics or programming. © 2014 Richmond et al.
Richmond, T. K., Elliott, M. N., Franzini, L., Kawachi, I., Caughy, M. O., Gilliland, M. J., … Schuster, M. A. (2014). School programs and characteristics and their influence on student BMI: Findings from healthy passages. PLoS ONE, 9(1). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0083254