Indexed on: 15 Feb '19Published on: 15 Feb '19Published in: Preventive Medicine
Physical education (PE) can improve student health. Schools with credentialed PE teachers receive more PE. However, many schools have reduced PE funding, resulting in fewer teachers and potentially poorer student health. We examined if PE teachers are equally available across school districts, and if availability is associated with higher student cardiorespiratory fitness. We contacted California districts educating students in grades K-6 (n = 894) to determine the number of credentialed elementary PE teachers per district in 2016-17. Public datasets provided demographics and student fitness. Generalized linear models examined associations between district-level demographic characteristics and PE teacher-to-student ratio. Linear regression assessed the relationship between PE teacher-to-student ratio and student fitness. Seventy-five percent of districts (n = 669) responded. On average, there were 0.6 PE teachers for every 500 students, including the half (51%) of districts without elementary PE teachers. Each additional100 students of all racial/ethnic backgrounds in the district was associated with a 0.1% (95% CI -0.2%, -0.1%) decrease in the ratio. Each 10% increase in African American and Latino students was associated with 29% (95% CI -47%, -5%) and 18% (95% CI -31%, -3%) decreases in the ratio, respectively. Each additional PE teacher per 500 students was associated with a 3% increase in aerobically fit students (95% CI 1%, 4%). Elementary PE teachers are lacking in California, particularly in districts with a high proportion of African American and Latino students, which may be contributing to health disparities. Creative action to fund PE should be explored to ensure all students benefit from quality PE. Copyright © 2018. Published by Elsevier Inc.