Home Health Eating Disorders and Obesity
Efforts to prevent EDs on college campuses have increased exponentially over the past 2 decades. There is much variability in the content of successful programs; however, programs that have received the strongest research support with college populations are those that rely less on psychoeducation and more on promoting attitude and behavioral change. Strategies such as inducing cognitive dissonance around the pursuit of the thin ideal and promoting body acceptance and healthier weight control behaviors seem to be the most promising. Successful prevention programs have been implemented with low-risk and high-risk college women and with select groups such as sorority women, athletes, and H&PE majors. Online prevention programs have also shown some success and deserve further exploration given their cost effectiveness and ease of dissemination and the Internet immersion of the present generation of college students. Whereas broad meta-analytic studies on effective ED prevention suggest the need for professional interventionists, much success has been found using peer leaders on college campuses. Similarly, although meta-analyses have suggested better results when targeting high-risk groups (secondary or selected prevention), primary or universal prevention is effective and sometimes preferred with university populations. That is, sorority members and athletes reported a desire to foster group or team cohesion and therefore wanted programs to be given to all members (Stice, Shaw, et al., 2008). Although much progress in understanding effective prevention has been made, continued research is needed.
With the increased concern with obesity rates in the U.S. population, more research is needed on healthy weight interventions. Promising results from healthy weight interventions have been found in studies using adolescents (Stice, Marti, Spoor, Presnell, & Shaw, 2008) and college athletes (Becker et al., 2012). However, limited success was found using an HWI with a sample of high-risk university women (Stice et al., 2012). Recent findings have suggested the importance of matching the prevention program to the population of interest. For example, college athletes were more receptive to an HWI as opposed to a DBP (Becker et al., 2012). More research is needed to determine which programs are most effective with which groups.
Additionally, most ED prevention research at the college level has been conducted with White women. More needs to be done to develop and test programs with other populations, including men and individuals of other races or ethnicities.
• College women are considered at risk for EDs, with specific groups (i.e., sorority women, athletes, H&PE majors) believed to be at higher risk than college students in general.
• When introducing prevention efforts on college and university campuses, it is imperative to use methods shown to be effective in reducing risk factors to avoid unintentional negative effects (e.g., normalizing disordered eating behaviors).
• The content of successful prevention programs varies, but the programs that are most effective on college campuses include those using interactive, multisession, dissonance-based approaches. The least effective are those using single-session, didactic, psychoeducational interventions.
• Internet-based prevention programs deserve further exploration as potentially effective methods of reaching large numbers of college students in a cost-effective way
• Peer leaders are effective in implementing prevention programs on college campuses and present advantages to the groups they serve over professional interventionists.
• Interventions need to be tailored to the specific population of interest. For example, when working with college athletes, coaches may need to be targeted, and structural changes in terms of weight requirements and uniforms may be needed. Likewise, athletes may be more receptive to programs that focus on performance and health rather than body image.
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