Perceptions of Health Behaviors and Mobile Health Applications in an Academically Elite College Population to Inform a Targeted Health Promotion Program
College is a critical developmental time when many emerging adults engage in unhealthy behaviors (i.e., lack of exercise, poor diet, smoking) and consequently experience an increased risk for a decline in cardiovascular health. Understanding the beliefs and opinions of the target population is important to develop effective health promotion interventions. The goal of this study was to understand opinions regarding health and health-related mobile technology of college students at an academically elite Midwestern university in order to inform a mobile health promotion intervention following the integrated behavioral model framework.
Eighteen college students between the ages of 18 and 22 participated in one of four focus groups, where they discussed perceptions of health behaviors, technology use, and their college environment. Data were analyzed using inductive thematic analysis as well as consensus and conformity analysis.
Students reported prioritizing academic success over health and believed in a cultural norm within the university that unhealthy behavioral practices lead to increased academic success. Other identified barriers to achieving good health were (a) low self-efficacy for engaging in healthy behaviors when presented with conflicting academic opportunities and (b) low estimation of the importance of engaging in health behaviors. Regarding mobile health applications (apps), students reported preferring apps that were visually attractive, personalized to each user, and that did not involve competing against other users.
These results have implications for the development of mobile health promotion interventions for college students, as they highlight facilitators and barriers to health behavior change in an academically elite student body.
KeywordsMobile health Health promotion College Technology Health behavior change
This work was supported by the American Heart Association Strategically Focused Research Prevention Network (no. 14SFRN20740001); J.R. Albert Foundation, Inc.; and National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (UL1TR001422).
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
All authors declare that they have no conflict of interests.
All procedures performed in this study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee (our institution’s IRB) and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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