An evaluation of health behavior change during a general education health course
Method: The purpose of this study was to determine the degree to which students enrolled in Fit for Life adopted the health behaviors promoted in the course, evidenced by progress through the stages of change, as described by the transtheoretical model. This was a descriptive evaluation study utilizing a mixed-methods approach with simultaneous quantitative and qualitative methodology. The Health Risk Intervention survey, modified to meet the needs of undergraduate students, was used in a pretest/posttest design to measure the stages of change for Fit for Life students and controls for nine health behaviors. Face-to-face interviews were conducted at the beginning and end of the course with five Fit for Life students to validate and corroborate the results of the survey.
Results: Participation in the Fit for Life course was significantly correlated with higher stages of change for getting optimal sleep (R = .200) and for fruit and vegetable consumption (R = .145) at posttest. Students also reported significantly higher rates of stress management than controls (X square(1) = 4.205). Overall, Fit for Life students progressed through the stages of change for significantly more health behaviors (t(167) = 4.420, p < .001), and reported practicing significantly more health behaviors at the end of the course than did controls (t(167) = 2.582, p = .011). Besides the statistically significant changes, half of all students stated that they were exercising more and half said they were eating better as a direct result of the course. Significant differences were seen between males and females, with females less likely to exercise regularly than males (R = -.276). Significant differences were also observed between ethnic groups, with Hispanic students being less likely to exercise regularly (R = -.150), and Asian students being less likely to be practicing depression prevention (R = -.199), less likely to be managing their stress (R = -.214), and more likely to have used or be using alcohol (R = -.209). -- Conclusion: The Fit for Life course was effective at promoting behavior change among its students. Most students made progress through the stages of behavior change for one or more health behaviors. This progress was corroborated by student comments about changes they had made in their health behaviors, such as getting more exercise, eating better, being more aware of what they ate, getting better sleep, and practicing stress management.