Effects of a health advocacy program to promote physical activity and nutrition behaviors among adolescents: An evaluation of the Young Leaders for Healthy Change program

Kelly L Cordeira, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Background. This study was designed to evaluate the effects of the Young Leaders for Healthy Change program, an internet-delivered program in the school setting that emphasized health advocacy skills-development, on nutrition and physical activity behaviors among older adolescents (13–18 years). The program consisted of online curricular modules, training modules, social media, peer and parental support, and a community service project. Module content was developed based on Social Cognitive Theory and known determinants of behavior for older adolescents. Methods. Of the 283 students who participated in the fall 2011 YL program, 38 students participated in at least ten of the 12 weeks and were eligible for this study. This study used a single group-only pretest/posttest evaluation design. Participants were 68% female, 58% white/Caucasian, 74% 10th or 11th graders, and 89% mostly A and/or B students. The primary behavioral outcomes for this analysis were participation in 60-minutes of physical activity per day, 20-minutes of vigorous- or moderate- intensity physical activity (MVPA) participation per day, television and computer time, fruit and vegetable (FV) intake, sugar-sweetened beverage intake, and consumption of breakfast, home-cooked meals, and fast food. Other outcomes included knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes related to healthy eating, physical activity, and advocacy skills. Findings. Among the 38 participants, no significant changes in any variables were observed. However, among those who did not previously meet behavioral goals there was an 89% increase in students who participated in more than 20 minutes of MVPA per day and a 58% increase in students who ate home-cooked meals 5–7 days per week. The majority of participants met program goals related to knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes prior to the start of the program. Participants reported either maintaining or improving to the goal at posttest for all items except FV intake knowledge, taste and affordability of healthy foods, interest in teaching others about being healthy, and ease of finding ways to advocate in the community. Conclusions. The results of this evaluation indicated that promoting healthy behaviors requires different strategies than maintaining healthy behaviors among high school students. In the school setting, programs need to target the promotion and maintenance of health behaviors to engage all students who participate in the program as part of a class or club activity. Tailoring the program using screening and modifying strategies to meet the needs of all students may increase the potential reach of the program. The Transtheoretical Model may provide information on how to develop a tailored program. Additional research on how to utilize the constructs of TTM effectively among high school students needs to be conducted. Further evaluation studies should employ a more expansive evaluation to assess the long-term effectiveness of health advocacy programming.

Subject Area

Behavioral psychology|Public health|Health education

Recommended Citation

Cordeira, Kelly L, "Effects of a health advocacy program to promote physical activity and nutrition behaviors among adolescents: An evaluation of the Young Leaders for Healthy Change program" (2012). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1516279.