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BACKGROUND: College freshmen are highly vulnerable to experiencing weight gain, and this phenomenon is associated with an increased risk of chronic diseases and mortality in older adulthood. Technology offers an attractive and scalable way to deliver behavioral weight gain prevention interventions for this population. Weight gain prevention programs that harness the appeal and widespread reach of Web-based technologies (electronic health or eHealth) are increasingly being evaluated in college students. Yet, few of these interventions are informed by college students' perspectives on weight gain prevention and related lifestyle behaviors. OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to assess college freshmen students' concern about weight gain and associated topics, as well as their interest in and delivery medium preferences for eHealth programs focused on these topics. METHODS: Web-based surveys that addressed college freshmen students' (convenience sample of N=50) perspectives on weight gain prevention were administered at the beginning and end of the fall 2015 semester as part of a longitudinal investigation of health-related issues and experiences in first semester college freshmen. Data on weight gain prevention-related concerns and corresponding interest in eHealth programs targeting topics of potential concern, as well as preferred program delivery medium and current technology use were gathered and analyzed using descriptive statistics. RESULTS: A considerable proportion of the freshmen sample expressed concern about weight gain (74%, 37/50) and both traditional (healthy diet: 86%, 43/50; physical activity: 64%, 32/50) and less frequently addressed (stress: 82%, 41/50; sleep: 74%, 37/50; anxiety and depression: 60%, 30/50) associated topics within the context of behavioral weight gain prevention. The proportion of students who reported interest in eHealth promotion programs targeting these topics was also generally high (ranging from 52% [26/50] for stress management to 70% [35/50] for eating a healthy diet and staying physically active). Email was the most frequently used electronic platform, with 96% (48/50) of students reporting current use of it. Email was also the most frequently cited preferred eHealth delivery platform, with 86% (43/50) of students selecting it. Facebook was preferred by the second greatest proportion of students (40%, 20/50). CONCLUSIONS: Most college freshmen have concerns about an array of weight gain prevention topics and are generally open to the possibility of receiving eHealth interventions designed to address their concerns, preferably via email compared with popular social media platforms. These preliminary findings offer a foundation to build upon when it comes to future descriptive investigations focused on behavioral weight gain prevention among college freshmen in the digital age.

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APA Citation

Monroe, C., Turner-McGrievy, G., Larsen, C., Magradey, K., Brandt, H., & Wilcox, S. et al. (2017). College Freshmen Students’ Perspectives on Weight Gain Prevention in the Digital Age: Web-Based Survey. JMIR Public Health And Surveillance, 3(4), e71.