Maryland: Making Wellness Work, One School at a Time

In 2013, at least one in five Maryland students aged 10–19 years was obese. Children who are obese, who don’t exercise regularly, or who don’t eat nutritious food are more likely to develop serious health problems, such as high blood pressure, or breathing problems, such as asthma. When schools give children time for active play and offer nutritious food options, they help their students learn and practice good health behaviors. Many school districts use wellness policies to guide schools in helping their students make healthy choices. The Maryland Wellness Policies and Practices Project (MWPPP) was launched in 2012. Since then, Preventive Health and Health Services (PHHS) Block Grant funds have supported this statewide, multi-year project to improve access to nutritious food and physical activity opportunities in Maryland schools.

The MWPPP helped school districts determine the strengths and weaknesses in their wellness policies and make plans to improve them. The first step was to score each district’s wellness policy using the Wellness School Assessment Tool, a research-based resource that compares the policy to the leading practices in the field.

One important finding of the project was that schools with active school health councils or wellness teams made better progress on student health, but many schools did not have these councils or teams. Many schools also needed guidance on encouraging students to exercise daily and eat more fruits and vegetables.

The MWPPP gave each district a report listing specific steps it could take to improve its wellness policies. Project staff also wrote and distributed a guidebook, “Making Wellness Work: One School at a Time,” to help school health councils, wellness teams, and leaders decide what they could do to support their students’ health and well-being. By spring 2014, 5 of 24 school districts had updated their wellness policies using what they had learned; other districts were also making plans to enhance their policies.

The PHHS Block Grant is helping schools promote good nutrition and regular physical activity as part of the daily school routine for Maryland’s students.

Story year: 2015

This picture shows kids in line with their healthy lunches.

Maryland used PHHS Block Grant funds to write a guidebook for schools to encourage students to stay active and make healthy choices.

Page last reviewed: April 17, 2018