A cluster-randomised controlled trial of the LifeLab education intervention to improve health literacy in adolescents.

Published on May 5, 2021in PLOS ONE2.74
· DOI :10.1371/JOURNAL.PONE.0250545
Kathryn Woods-Townsend8
Estimated H-index: 8
(University of Southampton),
Polly Hardy-Johnson2
Estimated H-index: 2
(University of Southampton)
+ 9 AuthorsHazel Inskip80
Estimated H-index: 80
(University of Southampton)
Adolescence offers a window of opportunity during which improvements in health behaviours could benefit long-term health, and enable preparation for parenthood-albeit a long way off, passing on good health prospects to future children. This study was carried out to evaluate whether an educational intervention, which engages adolescents in science, can improve their health literacy and behaviours. A cluster-randomised controlled trial of 38 secondary schools in England, UK was conducted. The intervention (LifeLab) drew on principles of education, psychology and public health to engage students with science for health literacy, focused on the message "Me, my health and my children's health". The programme comprised: • Professional development for teachers. • A 2-3 week module of work for 13-14-year-olds. • A "hands-on" practical health science day visit to a dedicated facility in a university teaching hospital. Data were collected from 2929 adolescents (aged 13-14 years) at baseline and 2487 (84.9%) at 12-month follow-up. The primary outcome was change in theoretical health literacy from pre- to 12 months post- intervention. This study is registered (ISRCTN71951436) and the trial status is complete. Participation in the LifeLab educational intervention was associated with an increase in the students' standardised total theoretical health literacy score (adjusted difference between groups = 0.27 SDs (95%CI = 0.12, 0.42)) at 12-month follow-up. There was an indication that intervention participants subsequently judged their own lifestyles more critically than controls, with fewer reporting their behaviours as healthy (53.4% vs. 59.5%; adjusted PRR = 0.94 [0.87, 1.01]). We conclude that experiencing LifeLab led to improved health literacy in adolescents and that they demonstrated a move towards a more critical judgement of health behaviour 12 months after the intervention. Further work is needed to examine whether this leads to sustained behaviour change, and whether other activities are needed to support this change.
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