A computer based approach to improve the dietary and physical activity patterns of a diverse group of adolescents

Krista Casazza, Florida International University


Diet and physical activity patterns have been implicated as major factors in the increasing prevalence of childhood and adolescent obesity. It is estimated that between 16 and 33 percent of children and adolescents in the United States are overweight (CDC, 2000). Moreover, the CDC estimates that less than 50% of adolescents are physically active on a regular basis (CDC, 2003). Interventions must be focused to modify these behaviors. Facilitating the understanding of proper nutrition and need for physical activity among adolescents is the first step in preventing overweight and obesity and delaying the development of chronic diseases later in life (Dwyer, 2000). The purpose of this study was to compare the outcomes of students receiving one of two forms of education (both emphasizing diet and physical activity), to determine whether a computer based intervention (CBI) program using an interactive, animated CD-ROM would elicit a greater behavior change in comparison to a traditional didactic intervention (TDI) program. A convenience sample of 254 high school students aged 14-19 participated in the 6-month program. A pre-test post-test design was used, with follow-up measures taken at three months post-intervention. ^ No change was noted in total fat, saturated fat, fruit/vegetables, or fiber intake for any of the groups. There was also no change in perceived self-efficacy or perceived social support. Results did, however, indicate an increase in nutrition knowledge for both intervention groups (p<0.001). In addition, the CBI group demonstrated more positive and sustained behavior changes throughout the course of the study. These changes included a decrease in BMI (ppre/post<0.001, ppost/follow-up<0.001), number of meals skipped (ppre/post<0.001), and soda consumption (ppre/post=0.003, ppost/follow-up=0.03) and an increase in nutrition knowledge (ppre/post<0.001, ppre/follow-up <0.001), physical activity (ppre/post<0.05, p pre/follow-up<0.01), frequency of label reading (ppre/follow-up <0.0l) and in dairy consumption (ppre/post=0.03). The TDI group did show positive gains in some areas post intervention, however a return to baseline behavior was shown at follow-up. Findings of this study suggest that compared to traditional didactic teaching, computer-based nutrition and health education has greater potential to elicit change in knowledge and behavior as well as promote maintenance of the behavior change over time. ^

Subject Area

Health Sciences, Nutrition

Recommended Citation

Casazza, Krista, "A computer based approach to improve the dietary and physical activity patterns of a diverse group of adolescents" (2006). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3217561.