PURPOSE: To compare the effectiveness of two school-based internet obesity prevention programs for diverse adolescents on body mass index (BMI), health behaviors, and self-efficacy, and to explore moderators of program efficacy. It was hypothesized that the addition of coping skills training to a health education and behavioral support program would further enhance health outcomes.
METHODS: A randomized clinical trial with cluster randomization by class and repeated measures with follow-up at 3 and 6 months was conducted (n = 384). BMI was assessed by use of standard procedures. Sedentary behavior, physical activity, nutrition behavior, self-efficacy, and satisfaction were assessed with self-report measures. Data analysis consisted of mixed model analyses with autoregressive covariance structure for repeated data by use of intent-to-treat procedures.
RESULTS: The mean age of students was 15.31 years (±0.69), with a mean BMI of 24.69 (±5.58). The majority were girls (62%) and of diverse race/ethnicity (65% non-white). There were no significant differences between groups on any outcomes and no change in BMI over time. There were significant improvements in health behaviors (sedentary behavior, moderate and vigorous physical activity, healthy eating, fruit and vegetable intake, sugar beverages, and junk food intake) and self-efficacy. Gender and lesson completion moderated select health outcomes. There was excellent participation and high satisfaction with the programs.
CONCLUSIONS: School-based internet obesity prevention programs are appealing to adolescents and improve health behaviors. The differential effect of coping skills training may require longer follow-up.