By participating in a peer- and community-driven education program, a new study offers evidence supporting community-based intervention as a successful vehicle to encourage high school students in Appalachia to reduce their intake of sugared drinks.
The study, supported by funding from the Ohio State Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS) and published in PRISM: A Journal of Regional Engagement was built around a 30-day “challenge” which utilized academic-community partnerships to identify health needs and promote positive health through community-led interventions in Appalachia.
“An estimated 24.8 million people live in Appalachia, and this population often has the highest concentrations of chronic illnesses like [type 2] diabetes and obesity,” said Laureen Smith, PhD, RN, study investigator and assistant professor in the College of Nursing. “It’s our hope that early intervention will help prevent disease in Appalachia and we can reapply what we learn here to populations outside of Appalachia.”
Through an integrated model that utilized surveys, focus groups and community health advocates, Smith noticed a recurring theme throughout both communities: there was a growing concern regarding teens’ consumption of sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs). From there, a pilot project was born. Dubbed “Sodabriety,” the project challenged high school students to give up or significantly reduce their consumption of SSBs for 30 days.
Smith, along with co-investigator, Mary Ellen Wewers, PhD, MPH, professor and associate dean for research in the College of Public Health, worked closely with the Pike Healthy Lifestyle Initiative, academic partners and community residents and stakeholders to spearhead the project that would explore teenage consumption of SSBs while determining the effectiveness of community-based intervention in both urban and rural Appalachia.
The 30-day challenge required a pre-test/post-test design to enable the tracking of long-term impact. Along with a social marketing campaign, a commercial and a “kick off kit,” students were given surveys and asked to maintain a daily beverage log. At the close of the challenge, students saw a significant reduction in their SSB consumption and an increase in their water consumption.
“I think the kids really engaged with the program because they were able to have a voice in the way the information was shared. They motivated each other in ways that showed a sense of ownership and pride,” says Smith.
The study was conducted using a Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) approach which engages the community in each step of research, something that Smith says was key to the program’s success.
“Using CBPR we were able to gather accurate, comprehensive and dependable data about the community’s health while showcasing the successful impact this method can have when establishing effective and trusting relationships between researchers and the community,” said Smith. “Most notably, the community-based approached empowered Appalachian residents to cultivate and deliver a viable health program that will impact the health and wellness of residents in the future.”