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Ensuring ready access to free drinking-water in schools is an important strategy for prevention of obesity and dental caries, and for improving student learning. Yet to date, there are no validated instruments to examine water access in schools. The present study aimed to develop and validate a survey of school administrators to examine school access to beverages, including water and sports drinks, and school and district-level water-related policies and practices.
Survey validity was measured by comparing results of telephone surveys of school administrators with on-site observations of beverage access and reviews of school policy documents for any references to beverages. The semi-structured telephone survey included items about free drinking-water access (sixty-four items), commonly available competitive beverages (twenty-nine items) and water-related policies and practices (twenty-eight items). Agreement between administrator surveys and observation/document review was calculated using kappa statistics for categorical variables, and Pearson correlation coefficients and t tests for continuous variables.
Public schools in the San Francisco Bay Area, California, USA.
School administrators (n 24).
Eighty-one per cent of questions related to school beverage access yielded κ values indicating substantial or almost perfect agreement (κ>0·60). However, only one of twenty-eight questions related to drinking-water practices and policies yielded a κ value representing substantial or almost perfect agreement.
This school administrator survey appears reasonably valid for questions related to beverage access, but less valid for questions on water-related practices and policies. This tool provides policy makers, researchers and advocates with a low-cost, efficient method to gather national data on school-level beverage access.
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