A web-based intervention to prevent multiple chronic disease risk factors among adolescents: co-design and user testing of the health4life school-based program

Katrina Elizabeth Champion*, Lauren Anne Gardner, Cyanna McGowan, Cath Chapman, Louise Thornton, Belinda Parmenter, Nyanda McBride, David R. Lubans, Karrah McCann, Bonnie Spring, Maree Teesson, Nicola Clare Newton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Background: Chronic diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide. Addressing key lifestyle risk factors during adolescence is critical for improving physical and mental health outcomes and reducing chronic disease risk. Schools are ideal intervention settings, and electronic health (eHealth) interventions afford several advantages, including increased student engagement, scalability, and sustainability. Although lifestyle risk behaviors tend to co-occur, few school-based eHealth interventions have targeted multiple behaviors concurrently. Objective: This study aims to summarize the co-design and user testing of the Health4Life school-based program, a web-based cartoon intervention developed to concurrently prevent 6 key lifestyle risk factors for chronic disease among secondary school students: alcohol use, smoking, poor diet, physical inactivity, sedentary recreational screen time, and poor sleep (the Big 6). Methods: The development of the Health4Life program was conducted over 18 months in collaboration with students, teachers, and researchers with expertise relevant to the Big 6. The iterative process involved (1) scoping of evidence and systematic literature review; (2) consultation with adolescents (N=815) via a cross-sectional web-based survey to identify knowledge gaps, attitudes, barriers, and facilitators in relation to the Big 6; (3) content and web development; and (4) user testing of the web-based program with students (n=41) and teachers (n=8) to evaluate its acceptability, relevance, and appeal to the target audience. Results: The co-design process resulted in a six-module, evidence-informed program that uses interactive cartoon storylines and web-based delivery to engage students. Student and teacher feedback collected during user testing was positive in terms of acceptability and relevance. Commonly identified areas for improvement concerned the length of modules, age appropriateness of language and alcohol storyline, the need for character backstories and links to syllabus information, and feasibility of implementation. Modifications were made to address these issues. Conclusions: The Health4Life school-based program is the first universal, web-based program to concurrently address 6 important chronic disease risk factors among secondary school students. By adopting a multiple health behavior change approach, it has the potential to efficiently modify the Big 6 risk factors within one program and to equip young people with the skills and knowledge needed to achieve and maintain good physical and mental health throughout adolescence and into adulthood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere19485
JournalJMIR Formative Research
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2020


  • Chronic disease
  • EHealth
  • Health promotion
  • Mobile phone
  • Primary prevention
  • Schools

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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