SSBs in general is a cause of dental erosion and dental caries among adolescents and play a significant role in overweight, obesity, and diabetes. The consumption of sports and energy drinks tripled from 1999-2008, suggesting the need for a more pointed focus on this type of sugary drink, especially considering public uncertainty about the sugar and caloric content of sports drinks. Perceptions of sports drinks providing health benefits like hydration, athletic performance, and athletic recovery are perpetuated in part by sports drink advertising that emphasize such gains. The purpose of this study is to examine the ambivalence about the healthfulness of sports drinks among adolescents and analyze the media environment that perpetuates such confusion. The Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM) and Reasoned Action Approach (RAA) offer a theory- based framework from which to approach (1) the prevention of obesity and dental caries and erosion through the promotion of a reduction of sports drinks consumption among adolescents and (2) a resolution to the ambiguity associated with this popular type of SSB. Thus the primary goal of this project is to identify modifiable individual and environmental (i.e., media) factors that could be incorporated into health messaging that discourages sports drink consumption as a strategy for improving adolescent dental health. The first step in accomplishing these goals is a content analysis of video advertisements (n=135) of popular sports drinks brands (i.e., Gatorade, Powerade, and Vitamin Water) to determine their persuasive strategies. The advertisement analysis will be based on communication theory and will code ads for central and peripheral cues as per the ELM and for belief, normative, and efficacy aspects as per the RAA. Next, a comprehensive RAA study which includes elicitation research and an online quantitative survey will be implemented to identity key adolescent beliefs about sports drinks with a focus on the target behavior of reducing sports drink consumption. Semi-structured elicitation interviews in 4 focus groups with adolescents ages 14-18 years old will be used to generate a comprehensive inventory of attitudinal, normative, and efficacy beliefs associated with reducing sports drink consumption and to validate categories of ads from the content analysis. Using results from this formative phase, an online RA survey among 14-18 year old youth in the United States (n=500) will be implemented to discern adolescents? beliefs about health and dental effects of sports drinks and the relevant determinants of adolescents? intention to reduce their sports drink consumption. Finally, based on findings from the content analysis and survey, theory-based messages that focus on reducing sports drink consumption and counter-arguing sports drink advertisements will be developed. Working with a Teen Research Team (TRT) and a graphic designer, prototype digital messages suitable for dissemination on social media will be created. Through a process of iterative concept testing, two focus groups and adolescent reactions to the messages on social media will be analyzed for message refinement purposes.

Public Health Relevance

Sports drink consumption among adolescents is associated with dental caries, dental erosion, obesity, and diabetes. The proposed project aims to improve our understanding of modifiable individual factors like beverage preferences and environmental factors like sports drink advertising to develop prototypical health messages to discourage sports drink consumption.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Dental & Craniofacial Research (NIDCR)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
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Community Influences on Health Behavior Study Section (CIHB)
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Riddle, Melissa
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University of Pennsylvania
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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