Prevention Across the Spectrum: a randomized controlled trial of three programs to reduce risk factors for both eating disorders and obesity

Psychol Med. 2015 Jul;45(9):1811-23. doi: 10.1017/S003329171400289X. Epub 2014 Dec 19.


Background: A randomized controlled trial of three school-based programs and a no-intervention control group was conducted to evaluate their efficacy in reducing eating disorder and obesity risk factors.

Method: A total of 1316 grade 7 and 8 girls and boys (mean age = 13.21 years) across three Australian states were randomly allocated to: Media Smart; Life Smart; the Helping, Encouraging, Listening and Protecting Peers (HELPP) initiative; or control (usual school class). Risk factors were measured at baseline, post-program (5 weeks later), and at the 6- and 12-month follow-ups.

Results: Media Smart girls had half the rate of onset of clinically significant concerns about shape and weight than control girls at the 12-month follow-up. Media Smart and HELPP girls reported significantly lower weight and shape concern than Life Smart girls at the 12-month follow-up. Media Smart and control girls scored significantly lower than HELPP girls on eating concerns and perceived pressure at the 6-month follow-up. Media Smart and HELPP boys experienced significant benefit on media internalization compared with control boys and these were sustained at the 12-month follow-up in Media Smart boys. A group × time effect found that Media Smart participants reported more physical activity than control and HELPP participants at the 6-month follow-up, while a main effect for group found Media Smart participants reported less screen time than controls.

Conclusions: Media Smart was the only program to show benefit on both disordered eating and obesity risk factors. Whilst further investigations are indicated, this study suggests that this program is a promising approach to reducing risk factors for both problems.

Keywords: Eating disorders; obesity; prevention; risk factors.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Advertising
  • Australia
  • Body Image
  • Child
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Risk Reduction Behavior*
  • School Health Services*
  • Stereotyping
  • Treatment Outcome