151856 Healthy 4 Life: The development of a theater-based nutrition and physical activity intervention for at-risk African-American adolescents

Wednesday, November 7, 2007: 8:50 AM

Caree J. Jackson, PhD, RD, LD , School of Community Health and Policy, Morgan State University, Baltimore, MD
Rebecca M. Mullis, PhD, RD, LD , Foods and Nutrition, University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Adolescence is a vulnerable period of life in which major cognitive and physical development occurs. During this time adolescents may be influenced to adopt negative health behaviors including poor eating habits and sedentary lifestyles. Low-income African-American youth are at greater risk for obesity than Caucasian youth. Teaching youth about the importance of healthy lifestyles is particularly important because overweight children are more likely to become obese adults. Using theater to teach healthy behavior presents a unique opportunity to reach both at-risk adolescents and their parents. The goal of this project was to develop a theater-based intervention that effectively conveys messages about healthy eating and physical activity to at-risk African-American adolescents. The study sample included at-risk adolescents (N=15) attending an urban middle school in the southeastern United States. Students participated in seventy-five minute sessions, two times per week to learn about healthy eating and physical activity, dramatic writing, and hip-hop dance. Students also completed home-based activities with their parents. The culminating event was a dinner theater presentation of an original play, “Getting on Track,” written and performed by students for parents, family, and friends. All participants were administered a pretest before program implementation and a post-test (six weeks after taking the pretest) after program completion. All participants reported enjoying the theater-based method of learning about health messages. Eighty percent of the participants showed an increase in their intentions to eat healthier foods and increase physical activity. Results of this theater-based intervention suggest that theater is a viable medium for health education for at-risk African-American adolescents.

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe an interdisciplinary approach involving health education and theater to communicate healthy behaviors to adolescents. 2. Identify benefits and challenges of using a theater-based approach in health education. 3. Articulate the process of incorporating theater in nutrition and physical education. 4. Discuss future practices based upon project findings.

Keywords: Adolescents, Minorities

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Any relevant financial relationships? No
Any institutionally-contracted trials related to this submission?

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.