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Obesity in teenagers has been dramatically increasing in a few past decades and, in the United States, it has obtained the status of epidemics. Recent statistics indicate that over 30% of contemporary teenagers are either overweight or obese (Huh et al., 2012). Whittemore et al. (2013) also observe that the increase in the incidence of this adverse condition is especially high in minority population groups, “with obesity rates exceeding 20% for Latino and Black adolescents” (p. 2). In both adults and children, the condition is associated with multiple adverse health issues including cardiovascular disease, colon cancer, asthma, hypertension, and diabetes mellitus (Huh, Stice, Shaw, & Boutelle, 2012; Whittemore et al., 2013). Moreover, Huh et al. (2012) state that it leads to some psychological problems such as increased body dissatisfaction, lower self-esteem, and academic attainment. For these reasons, an effective prevention and intervention strategy aimed at the elimination of the selected problem in the target population is required. In the given paper, the attempt to develop a multimedia education program will be made. To do so, a few evidence-based solutions will be reviewed and the findings will be utilized to design the campaign.
The education program will target female adolescents age 12-18. As the statistical data show, teenagers are more prone to the development of obesity. Moreover, the incidence of the condition is higher in women (Huh et al., 2012). Since the ethnic differences in overweight and obesity rates are also identified, it is important to ensure that the program will be ethnically inclusive. The given population group is selected for this project because childhood and adolescent obesity tends to persist into adulthood and increases individuals’ propensity to the development of chronic health conditions (Shin et la., 2014). Thus, early intervention and prevention can have a greater positive impact on the improvement of obese teenagers’ quality of life throughout the lifespan.
The main causes of obesity are the intake of high-calorie-dense food and the lack of physical activity. Thus, these two issues should be addressed during the education. The educational materials will be developed taking into account the major premises of the Social Cognitive Theory, according to which individual psychological aspects of behavior closely interrelate with broader social context, such as family and community. It means that when interacting with peers in schools, teenagers can adjust their own decisions and actions “in response to modeled behavior” (Shin et la., 2014, p. 2). Thus, they can be encouraged by their peers to intake healthy or unhealthy foods and engage or disengage in sports. For this reason, the education program will be school-based.
The media that will be used in the campaign include online education materials and promotional posters. As stated by Wang, Liaukonyte, and Kaiser (2015), two main types of advertising aimed to encourage healthier dieting and discourage the unhealthy one are “healthy eating advertisements” and “anti-obesity advertisements” (p. 4). The two methods are, however, associated with different efficacy levels. For instance, healthy eating advertising conveys a positive message and, as the research evidence shows, they usually have a significant effect on increasing the consumption of fruit and vegetables (Wang et al., 2015).
Conversely, anti-obesity advertisements often contain “frightening messages” aimed to persuade already obese individuals to avoid unhealthy food choices (Wang et al., 2015, p. 5). Scholars and psychologists state that this type of campaigns may stigmatize obese people and, in this way, induce their resistance to change and potentially stimulate their increased engagement in unhealthy lifestyles (Wang et al., 2015). Therefore, in the recommended school-based education program, only positive messages must be transmitted to avoid adverse impacts on the psychological state of overweight students and school culture as a whole. Favorable effects of fruit on the skin, of physical activity on stress levels and academic achievements are a few examples of such positive advertisement messages.
The positive and destigmatizing messages can be promoted on the school website, blogs, and other platforms used by students as well. Considering that many online social media contribute to the persistence of weight stigma, the development of a supportive online community that would provide a compassionate and non-judgemental space for students can significantly facilitate the progress in the prevention and intervention of adolescent obesity. Only in this way, it will be possible to eliminate existing stress factors that may affect students behaviors.
Lastly, a comprehensive Internet education program should be implemented in the school. The Internet program may include videos and articles about healthy food selection, etc., as well as some practical activities on food energy calculation, modification of meals, etc. It is worth noticing that in educational settings where Internet education on healthy eating behaviors was provided during class time, students had a more positive perception of programs and showed a higher level of participation compared to those students who were asked to attend the Internet interventions during their free time (Whittemore et al., 2013). Thus, it is essential to include the program in the curriculum. If the program is obligatory, it will also be possible to ensure that adolescent girls from various ethnic and social backgrounds will have an opportunity to benefit from it.
The suggested school-based multimedia education program aims to both prevent and intervene teenage obesity in girls age 12-18. The media included in the campaign are printed and online materials. The main purposes of the program are the destigmatization of overweight people, promotion of favorable school environment, and development of awareness of healthy food choices in the target population. The expected measurable outcomes of the campaign may include the reduced BMI in the course participants and sustainable engagement in healthier lifestyles.
Huh, D., Stice, E., Shaw, H., & Boutelle, K. (2012). Female overweight and obesity in adolescence: Developmental trends and ethnic differences in prevalence, incidence, and remission. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 41(1), 76–85.
Shin, H.-S., Valente, T. W., Riggs, N. R., Huh, J., Spruijt-Metz, D., Chou, C.-P., & Pentz, M. A. (2014). The interaction of social networks and child obesity prevention program effects: The pathways trial. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.), 22(6), 1520–1526.
Wang, R., Liaukonyte, J., & Kaiser, H. M. (2015). Does advertising content matter? Impacts of healthy eating and anti-obesity advertising on willingness-to-pay by consumer body mass index. Web.
Whittemore, R., Chao, A., Jang, M., Jeon, S., Liptak, T., Popick, R., & Grey, M. (2013). Implementation of a school-based Internet obesity prevention program for adolescents. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 45(6),