A Comparison of Weight-Related Behaviors Among High School Students Who Are Homeless and Non-Homeless compares weight-related risk behaviors of public high school students in Massachusetts based on homeless status. The investigators obtained data from 3,264 high school students who participated in the 2005 Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Multivariable logistic regression, controlling for gender, grade, race/ethnicity, and sexual orientation, was performed to assess the relationship between weight-related behaviors and homeless status as defined by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. More than 4.2% of public high school students in Massachusetts meet the federal definition of homelessness (n = 152). Homeless students were more likely than non-homeless students to report disordered weight-control behaviors including fasting (aOR 2.5, 95% CI 1.4–4.5) and diet pill use (aOR 3.3, 95% CI 1.6–6.9).
Students experiencing homelessness are at high risk for disordered weight-control behaviors. Policy decisions at the school, state, and federal levels should help these students with social services and nutritional interventions. In public schools, universal free breakfast and lunch programs are a great first step. Not only do these programs ensure that students can access nutritious meals, the stigma associated with school meals is reduced when all students are eligible. To address unhealthy weight-control behaviors, schools should run interdisciplinary health behavior programs that have been shown to have a beneficial impact, such as The Planet Health and 5-2- 1 Go! Programs. School employees and administrators can encourage relevant policy changes at the state level. Free summer meal programs should be sufficiently funded because they provide a critical safety net to families who depend on school meals during the rest of the year.
Fournier, M.E., Austin, S.B., Samples, C.L., Goodenow, C.S., Wylie, S.A., & Corliss, H.L. (2009). A comparison of weight-related behaviors among high school students who are homeless and non-homeless. J Sch Health, 79(12), 602.