The transition from adolescence to young adulthood is marked by declines in healthful behaviors such as diet, physical activity, and increases in obesity, thereby establishing early patterns of unhealthful behaviors in mid-adulthood that can lead to increases in chronic diseases later in life. Health promotion interventions in the college setting may have an impact on these patterns. However, because the U.S. undergraduate college population consists largely (3/4) of nontraditional students, health promotion programming should incorporate the characteristics that are germane to this population (for example, part-time enrollment, working full-time, and commuting to campus). These characteristics add to college students'social context, a theoretical multi-level concept that stresses the influence of social and organizational influences on the practice of health behaviors. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to evaluate the feasibility of implementing an intervention incorporating students'social context to promote healthy eating and physical activity behaviors among nontraditional college students. First, adaptations to existing intervention materials available to the study team will be carried out in order to create the three main components for the proposed intervention: 1) web-based tailored feedback, 2) web-based tip sheets targeted to the social context of the college setting, and 3) four phone-based coaching calls using motivational interviewing. The coaching calls will be delivered by trained student peer counselors, a potentially sustainable delivery mechanism. Second, the feasibility of the intervention will be assessed using a one-group, pre/post design among a sample of 100 students enrolled at a large 4-year public university serving a large population of nontraditional students. This design will allow us to investigate feasibility of the intervention approach among student peer counselors and student participants by meeting benchmarks based on previous studies. The four benchmarks are: 1) training a sufficient number of student peer counselors, 2) having participants receive a sufficient dose of coaching calls, 3) having participants receive a sufficient dose of tailored and targeted materials, and 4) having student peer counselors adhere sufficiently to key principles of motivational interviewing during the coaching calls. Meeting each benchmark will be measured by a specific process indicator. Third, we will assess change in behaviors (fruit and vegetable intake, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity) among student participants from baseline to five-month follow-up. Thus, this application seeks to: 1) create a series of intervention materials, 2) conduct a feasibility assessment of our intervention approach, and 3) obtain an effective size estimation necessary in order to conduct a future intervention trial.

Public Health Relevance

Eating and physical activity behaviors are related to risk of cancer and other chronic diseases either directly or indirectly through their effects on overweight/obesity. Health promotion interventions that incorporate a range of influences on the practice health behaviors across individual, social, and organizational levels can be especially effective in changing health behaviors. Furthermore, interventions that are delivered in a sustainable format, such as using trained peer counselors and using web-based delivery of intervention materials, are especially relevant to public health as they have the potential for broad-based dissemination to large audiences.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Small Research Grants (R03)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZCA1-SRLB-H (J1))
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Perna, Frank
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Boston Medical Center
United States
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Quintiliani, Lisa M; Whiteley, Jessica A (2016) Results of a Nutrition and Physical Activity Peer Counseling Intervention among Nontraditional College Students. J Cancer Educ 31:366-74
Quintiliani, Lisa M; Whiteley, Jessica A; Johnson, Elizabeth J et al. (2013) Time availability and preference for e-health communication channels for nutrition and physical activity. J Cancer Educ 28:408-11
Quintiliani, Lisa M; Bishop, Hillary L; Greaney, Mary L et al. (2012) Factors across home, work, and school domains influence nutrition and physical activity behaviors of nontraditional college students. Nutr Res 32:757-63