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Our teenage years are often seen as a risky period for developing lifestyle behaviours that are factors for chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and mental health disorders. The Health4Life intervention, designed collaboratively by experts in public health, education and youth engagement, aims to mitigate these risks by educating young people about healthy lifestyle choices through a school-based e-health program.

The Health4Life study was structured as a cluster randomised controlled trial involving students aged 11-14 from 71 diverse Australian schools (public, private and religious schools). The intervention consisted of six online video modules supplemented by a smartphone app, integrated into the schools’ health education classes. The effectiveness of this intervention was compared to standard health education, with the aim of modifying twelve risk behaviours linked to chronic diseases. The behaviours were measured at baseline, right after the intervention, and at 12 and 24 months after the intervention.

The trial’s findings indicated that Health4Life did not statistically outperform regular health education in altering any of the twelve evaluated behaviours over the two-year period. Notably, there was no significant difference in behaviors such as inadequate fruit and vegetable intake, physical activity levels and recreational screen time. The intervention also did not reduce the frequency of tobacco and alcohol use among the participants. Despite these outcomes, both students and teachers responded positively to the format and content of the Health4Life program.

The results highlight just how complex influencing adolescent behaviour can be. Although the program was well-received, the study’s authors say its lack of effectiveness in significantly changing health behaviors suggests that future interventions may need to focus more on engagement strategies such as goal setting and perhaps consider the timing, duration and intensity of the content delivery. They suggest these findings underscore the need for continued innovation and evaluation in health education to ensure that interventions are both effective in changing behaviours and adaptable to the needs of young individuals.


Further information

The Health4Life e‐health intervention for modifying lifestyle risk behaviours of adolescents: secondary outcomes of a cluster randomised controlled trial: Medical Journal of Australia

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