A theory-based online health behavior intervention for new university students: study protocol

Epton, Tracy, Norman, Paul, Sheeran, Paschal, Harris, Peter R, Webb, Thomas L, Ciravegna, Fabio, Brennan, Alan, Meier, Petra, Julious, Steven A, Naughton, Declan, Petroczi, Andrea, Dadzie, Aba-Sah and Kruger, Jen (2013) A theory-based online health behavior intervention for new university students: study protocol. BMC Public Health, 13(107), ISSN (online) 1471-2458

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Background Too few young people engage in behaviors that reduce the risk of morbidity and premature mortality, such as eating healthily, being physically active, drinking sensibly and not smoking. The present research developed an online intervention to target these health behaviors during the significant life transition from school to university when health beliefs and behaviors may be more open to change. This paper describes the intervention and the proposed approach to its evaluation. Methods/design Potential participants (all undergraduates about to enter the University of Sheffield) will be emailed an online questionnaire two weeks before starting university. On completion of the questionnaire, respondents will be randomly assigned to receive either an online health behavior intervention (U@Uni) or a control condition. The intervention employs three behavior change techniques (self-affirmation, theory-based messages, and implementation intentions) to target four heath behaviors (alcohol consumption, physical activity, fruit and vegetable intake, and smoking). Subsequently, all participants will be emailed follow-up questionnaires approximately one and six months after starting university. The questionnaires will assess the four targeted behaviors and associated cognitions (e.g., intentions, self-efficacy) as well as socio-demographic variables, health status, Body Mass Index (BMI), health service use and recreational drug use. A sub-sample of participants will provide a sample of hair to assess changes in biochemical markers of health behavior. A health economic evaluation of the cost effectiveness of the intervention will also be conducted. Discussion The findings will provide evidence on the effectiveness of online interventions as well as the potential for intervening during significant life transitions, such as the move from school to university. If successful, the intervention could be employed at other universities to promote healthy behaviors among new undergraduates. Trial registration Current Controlled Trials, ISRCTN67684181.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This work was supported by the UK National Prevention Research Initiative (NPRI) Phase 4 [grant number: MR/J0004501/1].
Uncontrolled Keywords: randomized controlled trial, young people, internet, self-affirmation, theory of planned behavior, implementation intentions, alcohol, fruit and vegetables, exercise, smoking
Research Area: Allied health professions and studies
Faculty, School or Research Centre: Faculty of Science, Engineering and Computing (until 2017) > School of Life Sciences
Depositing User: Declan Naughton
Date Deposited: 08 Mar 2013 10:57
Last Modified: 02 Apr 2013 10:56
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-13-107
URI: http://eprints.kingston.ac.uk/id/eprint/24659

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