Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name



Health Education

First Advisor

Nate McCaughtry


Disparities in obesity prevalence, based on a child’s race and income, establish that health interventions should prioritize these target populations. Additionally, children who are from low-income families in urban neighborhoods and of ethnic minorities have unequal access to environmental determinants of healthy eating (HE) and physical activity (PA). Schools might be the best setting for health interventions, given the understanding that a school’s mission should be to educate the whole child and the substantial amount of time that a child spends in school. The purpose of this study was to examine student-led, school-health interventions in four elementary schools. The Fuel Up to Play 60 (FUTP60) program was utilized by student leadership teams. FUTP60 materials report the program provides empowering experiences for youth, improves HE and PA environments within the school, and positively influencing students’ HE and PA behaviors. I utilized social ecological theory and empowerment theory to inform my understanding of teams’ implementation of FUTP60. Additionally, education reform literature informed this study. Specifically, comparing the often ineffective method of mandated national reform with grass-roots initiated reforms, which more commonly recognize teachers as the driving force of change within a school.

This qualitative study was grounded in interpretivism and was designed to understand the meanings and realities constructed by student and adult team members related to their experiences implementing school health initiatives. Forty-eight visits to four elementary schools were completed over the span of one school year. Visits to schools included formal and informal interviews, observations of team meetings and events, and artifact collection. Although each school’s team interpreted and enacted FUTP60 student-led teams in unique ways, common themes emerged across settings: 1. In-school support for teams was limited, 2. Advisors felt they lacked time to implement FUTP60 in addition to their primary roles, 3. Teams did not enact the entire FUTP60 six-step process, 4. Youth participation in decision-making was marginal, and 5. Team meetings and initiatives were designed to limit interruptions to academics. Incorporating training and resources for advisors in regard to the barriers teams faced, could increase teams’ success at achieving FUTP60’s objectives.