A Case Study on Promoting a Healthy School Culture to Combat Childhood Obesity and the Role of the Principal

Nancy Torres, University of Texas at El Paso


Obesity is leading cause of death worldwide. Childhood obesity has jumped to 22.4% in 2020 from 19.3% in 2019. One-third of children are overweight and obese, with an approximately 66% chance of becoming an obese adult. The costs of obesity are to overall health: financial, physical, social, and emotional. Obesity affects students at school, a point of service. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine what efforts has the principal undertaken to address childhood obesity in a Title I elementary school on the US-Mexico border and how these efforts helping to define and shape the school’s culture. This study was a qualitative, intrinsic case study, with semi-structured interviews and observations used to collect the data. A purposeful sample was selected using the Coordinated School Health Team, which consisted of the principal, the team champion, the nurse, the counselor, the wellness coordinators, and the physical education/health teachers. Those interviewed provided insight on the principals actions and development of the school culture. The results of the study provide themes of leadership attributes, role modeling, and knowledge. Leadership attributes were an actively engaged leader that provided a safe environment that is supported through guidance, resourcefulness, positive interactions, in a team approach setting that brings out the teachers’ natural talents and ideas related to overall health. Role modeling demonstrated a value for a healthy lifestyle, with campus activities and teacher wellness approaches as the initial step. Knowledge was the last theme with education used to reduce stigma and learning about an active and overall healthy lifestyle within the school, home, and community. A concluding discussion shared implications, recommendations, future research, and takeaways to assist other schools with creating a similar healthy school environment, with the principal as the prominent influence with a team approach on overall health.

Subject Area

Educational leadership|Elementary education|Public health|Educational sociology

Recommended Citation

Torres, Nancy, "A Case Study on Promoting a Healthy School Culture to Combat Childhood Obesity and the Role of the Principal" (2023). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI30819667.