Development of Theory Based Messages for an Online Health Intervention for New University Students (U@Uni).

T. Epton, P. Norman, P. R. Harris, T. L. Webb, P. Sheeran, F. A Snowsill

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Online health behaviour interventions have great potential but their effectiveness may be hindered by a lack of formative and theoretical work. This paper describes the process of formative research to develop theoretically and empirically based health messages that are culturally relevant and can be used in an online intervention to promote healthy lifestyle behaviours among new university students. Drawing on the Theory of Planned Behaviour, a three-phase programme of formative research was conducted with prospective and current undergraduate students to identify (i) modal salient beliefs (the most commonly held beliefs) about fruit and vegetable intake, physical activity, binge drinking and smoking, (ii) which beliefs predicted intentions/behaviour and (iii) reasons underlying each of the beliefs that could be targeted in health messages. Phase 1, conducted with 96 pre-university college students, elicited 56 beliefs about the behaviours. Phase 2, conducted with 3026 incoming university students, identified 32 of these beliefs that predicted intentions/behaviour. Phase 3, conducted with 627 current university students, elicited 102 reasons underlying the 32 beliefs to be used to construct health messages to bolster or challenge these beliefs. The three-phase programme of formative research provides researchers with an example of how to develop health messages with a strong theoretical- and empirical base for use in health behaviour change interventions.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalHealth Promotion International
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


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