Objectives: To investigate the contribution of school neighborhood socioeconomic advantage to the association between school-district physical education policy compliance in California public schools and Latino students' physical fitness.
Methods: Cross-sectional Fitnessgram data for public-school students were linked with school- and district-level information, district-level physical education policy compliance from 2004-2005 and 2005-2006, and 2000 United States Census data. Multilevel logistic regression models examined whether income and education levels in school neighborhoods moderated the effects of district-level physical education policy compliance on Latino fifth-graders' fitness levels.
Results: Physical education compliance data were available for 48 California school districts, which included 64,073 Latino fifth-graders. Fewer than half (23, or 46%) of these districts were found to be in compliance, and only 16% of Latino fifth-graders attended schools in compliant districts. Overall, there was a positive association between district compliance with physical education policy and fitness (OR, 95%CI: 1.38, 1.07, 1.78) adjusted for covariates. There was no significant interaction between school neighborhood socioeconomic advantage and physical education policy compliance (p>.05): there was a positive pattern in the association between school district compliance with physical education policy and student fitness levels across levels of socioeconomic advantage, though the association was not always significant.
Conclusions: Across neighborhoods with varying levels of socioeconomic advantage, increasing physical education policy compliance in elementary schools may be an effective strategy for improving fitness among Latino children.