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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: DEVELOPMENT AND PREVENTION OF CHILDHOOD OBESITY

Location: Children's Nutrition Research Center

Title: Social marketing-based communications to integrate and support the HEALTHY study intervention

Authors
item DE Bar, Ll -
item Schneider, M -
item Ford, Eg -
item Hernandez, Ae -
item Showell, B -
item Drews, Kl -
item Moe, El -
item Gillis, B -
item Stadler, Dd -
item White, M -
item Healthy Study Group, -

Submitted to: International Journal of Obesity
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: August 1, 2009
Publication Date: September 21, 2009
Citation: De Bar, L., Schneider, M., Ford, E., Hernandez, A., Showell, B., Drews, K., Moe, E., Gillis, B., Stadler, D., White, M for the HEALTHY Study Group. 2009. Social marketing-based communications to integrate and support the HEALTHY study intervention. International Journal of Obesity. 33(Suppl 4):S52-S59.

Interpretive Summary: The HEALTHY trial was a large middle school based intervention to prevent diabetes and obesity in mostly lower socioeconomic status ethnic minority children. This article documents the social marketing aspect of the intervention that targeted the dietary and physical activity change objectives of the overall program. Marketing professionals developed the project name, logos, and other materials attentive to student’s desires. The program goals were to be achieved by extensive posters and messaging throughout the schools, student events (e.g. assemblies), and giving out project labeled shirts, water bottles and other enticing objects that displayed the project logo. Student generated posters, pictures and videos were used toward the end of the project. The HEALTHY intervention delivery and impact were strengthened by the communications strategies. The HEALTHY experience provides practical considerations for systematically incorporating a social marketing-based communications approach within future school-based health behavior interventions.

Technical Abstract: The HEALTHY study was a randomized, controlled, multicenter, middle school-based, multifaceted intervention designed to reduce risk factors for the development of type 2 diabetes. The study randomized 42 middle schools to intervention or control, and followed students from the sixth to the eighth grades. Participants were a racially, ethnically, and geographically diverse cohort from across the United States. Here, we describe the conceptual underpinnings and design of the social marketing-based communications component of the HEALTHY study intervention that combined changes in the school nutrition and physical education (PE) environment with behavior change initiatives. The communications intervention component coordinated multiple elements to deliver campaigns that served to integrate and support all aspects of the HEALTHY intervention. The campaigns unfolded across five semesters of middle school, each targeting a specific theme related to the HEALTHY objectives. Communications campaigns comprised (1) core elements such as branding, posters, banners and visual and verbal messaging, (2) student events supporting the nutrition, PE and behavior intervention components through the application of social marketing and communications strategies, including the incorporation of student-generated media and (3) distribution of premiums and theme enhancers to extend the visibility of the study beyond the intervention environment. Formative research conducted with students, parents, and school administrators was used to refine the communications strategy. Student peer communicators selected from the student body were involved to influence the normative student environment. Marketing and creative design experts developed a brand, logo, activities, and materials. In the latter half of the study, student-generated messages and media were used to reflect local interests and culture and enhance peer influence. The HEALTHY intervention delivery and impact were strengthened by the communications strategies. The HEALTHY experience provides practical considerations for systematically incorporating a social marketing-based communications approach within future school-based health behavior interventions.

Last Modified: 10/1/2014
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