Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation




College of Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Nicole Zarrett


Obesity interventions to date have had small effects, which may be due to youth disengagement. In youth participatory action research (YPAR), youth become involved in research to make changes that impact their lives. Thus, integrating YPAR into a physical activity intervention, like we do in the current study, is a novel strategy to engage youth and increase empowerment for health behavior change. YPAR is typically implemented with high school youth, standalone, and within elective classrooms or focused after school programs; yet, YPAR can benefit all youth, so we expanded its reach into pre-existing aftercare programs. Participating youth were predominantly minority, low SES middle schoolers in two aftercare programs in the southeastern United States. Youth participated in a health focused YPAR curriculum with trained adult partners. A concurrent, mixed method triangulation design was used to analyze quantitative (youth empowerment survey, adult partner survey, observational tool) and qualitative (youth qualitative surveys, adult partner and youth journals) data to explore feasibility of implementation of YPAR. Convergence of data showed feasibility for the implementation of YPAR standalone in a pre-existing aftercare program and paired with a physical activity intervention with similar theoretical underpinnings. Trained raters successfully observed the essential elements in all sessions. Implementation in the YPAR + PA program achieved higher fidelity than the YPAR only program, and youth self-reported increases in empowerment, a critical mechanism for health behavior change. We hope to increase the impact of obesity interventions in future work.