Incorporating Asset-Building into a Shared Risk Factor Approach to School-Based Eating Disorder and Obesity Prevention

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In response to the high prevalence of eating disorders and obesity in adolescents, researchers are increasingly recognizing the benefits of developing universal prevention programs that address risk factors relevant to both issues. Further, an exclusive emphasis on risk overlooks the strengths in adolescents’ lives, potentially undermining their capacity to overcome challenges and develop into healthy adults. The developmental assets framework, which is composed of internal and external assets that have been consistently associated with a broad range of outcomes and health behaviours, represents an optimistic vocabulary for discussing adolescent health that has been gaining momentum in the prevention literature. For the current research study, five shared risk factors (low self-esteem, body dissatisfaction, dieting, weight-related teasing, and media internalization) were targeted through a school-based eating disorder and obesity prevention program that simultaneously promoted three developmental asset areas (positive identity, positive values, and social competencies). Teacher-led lesson plans known as Body Image Kits were delivered to junior high school students as part of their physical education classes. A quasi-experimental research design was used to assess program effectiveness by examining participants’ scores on measures of risk factors and developmental assets at post-program and follow up when compared to those of a control group. Additional subgroup analyses were also conducted to assess if intervention group participants demonstrated differential program effects based on baseline levels of developmental assets. Generalized estimating equations (GEE) were used to measure between-group differences over time. Results of the analyses revealed that the intervention group experienced a short-term reduction in dieting as well as greater overall positive identity compared to the control group. No other significant group or interaction effects were found for the remaining risk factors or developmental asset areas. Findings from the subgroup analyses were mixed, indicating the need to further explore the potential utility of applying the developmental assets framework to complement eating disorder and obesity prevention. The modest program effects found in this research illuminate the practical and methodological challenges that accompany universal school-based research. The implications of these challenges for school-based eating disorder and obesity prevention, counselling psychology, and research, as well as accompanying recommendations, are discussed.
Education, Educational Psychology, Education--Guidance and Counseling, Education--Health, Education--Teacher Training, Education, Mental Health, Public Health, Psychology--Developmental
Ross Batten, S. B. (2016). Incorporating Asset-Building into a Shared Risk Factor Approach to School-Based Eating Disorder and Obesity Prevention (Doctoral thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from doi:10.11575/PRISM/26501