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Study Overview

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What Is The Purpose Of The Healthy Communities Study?

The Healthy Communities Study (HCS) looks at how characteristics of programs and policies in communities in the United States are linked to children's eating, physical activity behaviors, and their health. No other study has conducted this research on such a large scale. The HCS will help inform community leaders about what types of programs and policies may help children's health.

Where Is The Study Taking Place?

120 communities throughout the continental United States are part of this study.

How Are Communities Selected?

Communities are selected in one of two ways:

  • the community is known to have promising programs or policies related to children’s eating or physical activity; or
  • the community is randomly selected from all the communities in the continental United States.

What Data Are Collected?

The study collects data in each community in four ways:

  • From key community members, the study collects information on programs and policies that have to do with children’s eating and physical activity health.
  • From schools, the study collects information on the food and physical activity environments.
  • From families, the study collects information on the child’s eating and physical activities, and the child’s and the parent’s/caregiver’s height, weight and waist measurements.
  • From medical providers, the study collects information on the child’s height and weight history. Medical providers are only contacted when the parent gives consent to the study.

How Are The Data Collected?

The study team travels to each community to visit schools, and meet with community members and families to collect data. Medical providers are contacted to request a copy of the child’s medical record be sent to the study team.

How Are Community Members Selected And How Do They Participate In The Study?

In each selected community, about 12 community members in different types of key community roles are selected to take part in the study. The community member takes part in one interview with the study team.

For more information on how community members are selected and how they participate in the study, visit the Participating Community Members page.

How Are Schools Selected And How Do They Participate In The Study?

In each selected community, up to 2 elementary and 2 middle schools, or a Kindergarten through 8th grade school, are picked and invited to participate in the study. Schools help recruit families from among their students, and allow the study team to collect information on the food and physical activity environment at the school.

For more information on how schools are selected and how they participate in the study, visit the Participating Schools page.

How Are Families Selected And How Do They Participate In The Study?

Families with children in Kindergarten through 8th grade from the recruited schools are invited to take part in the study. If the family is eligible and wants to participate, the family may be selected to be in the study. A total of 81 families are selected in each community. Families that agree to take part in the HCS have a home visit with one person from the study team. During this visit, questions are asked of both the parent and child, and height and weight measurements are taken.

For more information on how families are selected and how they participate in the study, visit the Participating Families page.

How Are Medical Providers Selected And How Do They Participate In The Study?

When a family agrees for the study to access the child’s medical record, an authorization form is completed by the parent/guardian. Using the information from the authorization form, the child’s medical provider is contacted and asked to provide a copy of the medical record. Only when the parent/guardian has provided authorization will the study team contact the medical provider.

Visit the Participating Health Care Providers page for more details about the data collected from medical providers.




Last Updated September 2013




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