Background: Adolescent obesity is a major public health concern. Open to all high school students regardless of weight status, HealthCorps is a nationwide program offering a comprehensive high school-based participatory educational program to indirectly address obesity. We tested a hypothesis that the HealthCorps program would decrease BMI z-scores among overweight or obese students, and reduce obesity rates, and evaluated its effects on health knowledge and behaviors. Methods: HealthCorps aimed to improve student knowledge and behaviors regarding nutrition quality, physical activity, sleep, breakfast intake, and mental resilience. Participating students received through HealthCorps coordinators weekly or bi-weekly classroom lessons either for a semester or a year in addition to various during- and after-school health-promoting activities and mentorship. Self-reported height and weight were collected along with questionnaires assessing knowledge and behaviors during 2013-2014 academic year among 14 HealthCorps-participating New York City high schools. This quasi experimental two-arm pre-post trial included 611 HealthCorps and 221 comparison arm students for the analytic sample. Sex-specific analyses stratified by weight status were adjusted for age and Hispanic ethnicity with clustering effects of schools and students taken into account. Results: HealthCorps female overweight/obese and obese student had a significant decrease in BMI z-scores (post-pre delta BMI z-score = .16 (95%CI = (-=-00.26, -0.05), p = 0.004 for the former; and = -0.23 (-0.44, -0.03), p = 0.028, for the latter) whereas comparison female counterparts did not. The HealthCorps students, but not the comparison students, had a significant increase for all knowledge domains except for the breakfast realm, and reported a greater number of significant behavior changes including fruit and vegetable intake and physical activities. Conclusions: The HealthCorps program was associated with reduced BMI z-score in overweight/obese and obese female adolescents, with enhanced health knowledge and behavior for both sexes. With its wide reach, this may be a promising program to help combat adolescent obesity in schools. Trial registration: This study is registered as a clinical trial at the ClinicalTrials.gov registry with trial number NCT02277496on September 10, 2014 (Retrospectively registered).
- Adolescent obesity
- Health behavior
- High school
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health