HEALTHY was a multi-center primary prevention trial designed to reduce risk factors for type 2 diabetes in adolescents. Seven centers each recruited six middle schools that were randomized to either intervention or control. The HEALTHY intervention integrated multiple components in nutrition, physical education, behavior change and communications and promotion. The conceptual rationale as well as the design and development of the behavior intervention component are described. Pilot study data informed the development of the behavior intervention component. Principles of social learning and health-related behavior change were incorporated. One element of the behavior intervention component was a sequence of peer-led, teacher-facilitated learning activities known as FLASH (Fun Learning Activities for Student Health). Five FLASH modules were implemented over five semesters of the HEALTHY study, with the first module delivered in the second semester of the sixth grade and the last module in the second semester of the eighth grade. Each module contained sessions that were designed to be delivered on a weekly basis to foster self-awareness, knowledge, decision-making skills and peer involvement for health behavior change. FLASH behavioral practice incorporated individual and group self-monitoring challenges for eating and activity. Another element of the behavior intervention component was the family outreach strategy for extending changes in physical activity and healthy eating beyond the school day and for supporting the student's lifestyle change choices. Family outreach strategies included the delivery of newsletters and supplemental packages with materials to promote healthy behavior in the home environment during school summer and winter holiday breaks. In conclusion, the HEALTHY behavior intervention component, when integrated with total school food and physical education environmental changes enhanced by communications and promotional campaigns, is a feasible and acceptable mechanism for delivering age-appropriate social learning for healthy eating and physical activity among an ethnically diverse group of middle school students across the United States.
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