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Preventing obesity in adolescents using interactive text message program

University of Sydney

  • Cardiovascular Early-Mid Career Researcher Grant
Organ System:
  • Cardiovascular
Date Funded:
  • 22 May, 2020
Chief Investigator/s:
  • Dr. Stephanie Partridge

Project summary

Generating evidence on text message programs to improve BMI, diet, physical activity and mental wellbeing in adolescents.

What is the issue for NSW?

Overweight and obesity affects over 25% of adolescents (aged 13-18 years) living in NSW. Weight gain in adolescents is related to heart disease in later life. NSW Health offers state-based obesity prevention programs for children <13-years-old and adults >18-years-old. Currently, there are no adolescent-focused NSW-wide obesity prevention programs, which is inequitable. Lifestyle risk factors namely, suboptimal diet, physical inactivity, and overweight and obesity are well established during adolescence, making this second decade of life (10-19 years) a critical period for the development of lifelong health trajectories.

In Australia, over 90% of adolescents own a mobile phone. Text message based healthy lifestyle programs can improve lifestyle behaviours in adults. However, there is limited long-term, high-quality evidence for the role of text messages in prevention of obesity in adolescents.

What does the research aim to do and how?

To address this evidence gap, Dr Partridge has co-designed an interactive text message program for adolescents, targeting key weight-related lifestyle behaviours namely, physical activity, healthy eating, and mental wellbeing. In the text message development phase, she has already engaged key stakeholders, including adolescents, adolescent health experts, and public health and research professionals. Specifically, her research aims to:

  1. test the effectiveness of a text message healthy lifestyle program compared to usual care in improving BMI z-scores and key lifestyle behaviours
  2. explore the acceptability, utility and feasibility of the program to inform implementation and integration into existing services.

This research will generate much needed evidence on text message programs to improve BMI, diet, physical activity and mental wellbeing in adolescents, as well as evidence to incorporate the program within the NSW health system. Above all, this program could ultimately help reduce the burden of obesity and heart disease in adolescents in NSW and potentially across Australia.

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