Background: Obesity and mental health disorders are 2 major public health problems in American adolescents, with prevalence even higher in Hispanic teens. Despite the rapidly increasing incidence and adverse health outcomes associated with overweight and mental health problems, very few intervention studies have been conducted with adolescents to improve both their healthy lifestyles and mental health outcomes. Even fewer studies have been conducted with Hispanic youth. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the preliminary efficacy of the COPE (Creating Opportunities for Personal Empowerment) Healthy Lifestyles TEEN (Thinking, Emotions, Exercise, and Nutrition) program, a manualized educational and cognitive behavioral skills-building program, on Hispanic adolescents' healthy lifestyle choices as well as mental and physical health outcomes.
Methods: A cluster randomized controlled pilot study was conducted with 19 Hispanic adolescents enrolled in 2 health classes in a southwestern high school. One class received COPE and the other received an attention control program.
Results: Adolescents in the COPE program increased their healthy lifestyle choices and reported a decrease in depressive and anxiety symptoms from baseline to postintervention follow-up. A subset of 7 overweight adolescents in the COPE program had a decrease in triglycerides and an increase in high-density lipoproteins. In addition, these overweight adolescents reported increases in healthy lifestyle beliefs and nutrition knowledge along with a decrease in depressive symptoms.
Conclusion: The COPE TEEN program is a promising school-based strategy for improving both physical and mental health outcomes in adolescents.