Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Nancy Maldonado


Childhood obesity is a worldwide problem that can lead to adverse health conditions. In several rural Pennsylvania communities, over one third of elementary students are characterized as overweight, having a body mass index above the 85th percentile. The purpose of the study was to investigate educational stakeholders' perspectives about school-based obesity-prevention programs. The conceptual framework focused on cognitive theory, the theory of planned behavior, and the trans-theoretical model of health behavior change, which postulates that an individual's readiness to change is the most important factor of intervention programs. Qualitative interview data were gathered from 18 educational stakeholders. Inductive code-based analysis led to categories and themes. Key findings revealed a variety of barriers that limited and prevented effective student-wellness initiatives: students' physical activity; family dynamics, schedules, and socioeconomic factors; lack of transportation limiting children's participation in physical activities; parental engagement and input on obesity-prevention initiatives; and cafeteria environment and meal offerings. Findings informed the development of a policy recommendation for a research-based nutrition education program for schools and a strategy to communicate students' cafeteria habits to parents. Recommendations include a heightened awareness on factors contributing to obesity, as well as better educator-led planning to make improvements to school-based programs. Implications for positive social change may be the potential to increase awareness of healthy behaviors and improved student health through obesity-prevention methods, exercise patterns, and dietary habits of youth. These healthy habits may reduce adverse health effects in adulthood, which could hold the potential to improve the health of the next generation.