Reducing obesity among students aged 16-24: Programme evaluation
Summary of findings
- The evaluation has provided a good foundation for the development of further interventions
- The target audience concede that, in the main, their health is deteriorating as a result of their lifestyle. However, they generally accept this as an integral part of being a student, and this is reinforced by the availability of cheap, unhealthy food on campus and in the town centre
- Offers on healthier food options may help address this. This group also believe they are too young for their lifestyle to affect them; therefore it is not a hugely important issue
- Challenging the perceived ‘student lifestyle’ will represent a major task for the Council and PCT. The current approach of working within the students’ social sphere is clearly the tactic which will yield the greatest results
- The bags of ingredients handed out at the University’s freshers’ fayre were gratefully received. However, a short briefing on the purpose of them would help, as would the inclusion of ‘traditional’ recipes. Many would also benefit from basic cookery classes
- The Dance Your Ass Off evenr appears to have had limited impact. A longer-term approach may be needed and greater publicity
- Feedback from the Take on the Takeaway event was fairly positive, with James Martin being the biggest draw to the event
- Lowest satisfaction was seen with pre-event publicity. Several had only found out by chance.
- Similarly, whilst the Dodgeball event gained positive feedback, there appeared to be an issue with pre-event publicity. The majority of those attending would be interested in going to similar events in future
- Brand awareness of Up For It is low, and must be increased if it is to be used again
- Discussions with nurses at the College indicate that a holistic approach to tackling obesity in students is required, as their experience suggests it is often related to other factors. A more strategic, joined-up approach is advised
- The students in this sample tended to have little involvement with University clubs and societies, both sporting and non-sporting. The main criteria for involvement are that activities should be accessible, free (or cheap) and ideally non-competitive
- In terms of communicating with students about interventions, Facebook is a key vehicle
The social marketing objectives of the programme were to achieve:
- A halt in the year-on-year rise in overweight and obesity levels within16- to 24-year-olds
- Movement of the target group from sedentary behaviour to more active behaviour
- Exchange of unhealthy food for quick and healthy food options
The objective of this evaluation was to understand the effectiveness of the interventions that were implemented to achieve these social marketing objectives.
Following the initial scoping insight, which showed that students favoured interventions that did not focus on health and were fun, social, quick and easy, the decision was taken to use a ‘stealth not health’ approach to encouraging behaviour change, where the health aspects of the events were covertly promoted through fun and enjoyable activities.
The Department of Health publication, Ambitions for Health, set out the important role social marketing is seen to have in improving health and will play in the policymaking process.
Kirklees has focused its efforts on changing behaviour that contributes to obesity in students aged 16 to 24. The programme ultimately aims to increase the number of students involved in healthy eating and physical activity, and identifying potential risks in their lifestyles.
Kirklees PCT wished to commission an evaluation to enable decisions to be made as to whether the approach should be rolled out more widely or sustained for this group. This report contains preliminary findings from initial events that took place as of 10 March 2009.
Evaluation of a programme of interventions delivered in spring 2009 as part of a social marketing initiative to change behaviours that contribute to obesity among Kirklees students aged 16 to 24.
A mix of qualitative and quantitative research was employed.
- The quantitative research was designed to provide an indication of attendance at events, including demographics and motivation to attend
- The qualitative elements were intended to provide an in-depth understanding of motivations and behaviour in terms of lifestyle and weight management
The research incorporated the following events:
Freshers’ Fayre Event
Students at the University of Huddersfield were given bags containing ingredients and recipe cards.
Two 90-minute focus groups, split by gender, took place on 5 February 2009 at the Cotton Factory, Huddersfield. Group 1 comprised six males, Group 2 comprised nine females.
Health MOTs at Hudderfield College
Health MOTs of students took place at New College, Huddersfield, as part of health week.
Two depth interviews lasting one hour were conducted on 23 February 2009.
- Dance Your Ass Off Event
- Dodgeball Event
- Come Dine with Me / Take on the Takeaway event
Four researchers attended each event and used Handheld Mobile Digital Assistant (MBA) equipment to conduct a survey of the audience at each event. The survey was intended to provide a snapshot of participants' lifestyles and motivations.
The surveys were followed up with five 30-minute in-depth telephone interviews per intervention to gain feedback specific to each intervention.
Data collection methodology
Qualitative: 37 respondents in all (focus groups, face-to-face depths, telephone depths)
Quantitative: Not specified
February to June 2009
Agree to publish
This report is classified as sensitive as it deals with vulnerable young people.