Online Program

Evaluating college students' perceptions of obesity-related messages and images

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Julia Alber, MPH, Department of Health Education and Behavior, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
Mindy Menn, MS, CHES, Department of Health Education & Behavior, University of Florida, Gainsville, FL
Liran Chen, Statistics, University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, Urbana, IL
Don Chaney, PhD, CHES, Department of Health Education and Behavior, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
Beth Chaney, PhD, MCHES, Health Education and Behavior, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
For many young adults, the undergraduate years include substantial dietary changes. These changes, combined with a barrage of advertising to college students have increased attention to obesity-related marketing campaigns on American college campuses. This study evaluated college students' perceptions of obesity-related messages and images produced by various state and national organizations. All images incorporated in the study materials were obtained through publically accessible websites. To narrow this study's scope, inclusion criteria necessitated a clearly delineated image and message related to obesity, healthy eating, or physical activity. Data were collected from 390 distance education students at a large southeastern university in the fall of 2012. Survey items asked participants to rank 16 images and messages as: helpful, important, credible, informative, stigmatizing, motivating, useful, or appropriate on a likert scale (1 Strongly Disagree- 5 Strongly Agree). Additionally, applying the Theory of Planned Behavior, participants were asked questions to identify their perceived control and intention regarding behaviors depicted in the images. Descriptive and inferential statistics were performed. A majority of participants were female (69.8%), white (65%) and students' average age was 20.39 years. The three images and messages ranked the highest were Get Your Plate in Shape (USDA), Burn to Learn (CDC), and Rethink your Drink (LA County). Individuals ranked the images lower in almost all of the indicators (e.g. as importance, helpfulness, etc.) than the written messages on the images. In general, messages and images with higher scores also reflected higher scores intent and ability to follow the message.

Learning Areas:

Administer health education strategies, interventions and programs
Communication and informatics
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Identify the highest ranking obesity-related campaign images and messages among a college-aged population. Assess two differences in reactions to 16 obesity-related images and messages.

Keyword(s): Obesity, Communication

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified to present because I am PhD student who has engaged in obesity-related research for the last three years. I have also worked in health promotion programs where I have developed obesity-related posters and handouts, created and analyzed surveys evaluating health behaviors, and provided coaching to individuals maintaining and losing weight.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

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.