Special Report: Improving Body Image in Middle School

Period of Performance: 06/01/2005 - 05/31/2008


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Inflexxion, Inc.
Newton, MA 02464
Principal Investigator


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): This Phase II application proposes the development of an interactive, school-based multimedia program that addresses body dissatisfaction in adolescents (BDIA). Using a self-esteem approach to improve body image, nutrition, and physical activity, the program is designed for early adolescents (ages 11 to 12) when maturation and body concerns are highly salient. BDIA is considered one of the most robust risk factors in the onset of eating disorders, and is implicated as a risk factor in the initiation of substance use and depression. Further, increasing rates of BDIA and the early initiation of dieting behaviors parallels the rising rates of childhood obesity. The CD-ROM program goals will be delivered through a mystery game format; responses to a risk factor assessment tailor program messages to the individual user. The six learning modules will cover puberty, nutrition, physical activity, self-esteem, relational esteem, and media literacy. The Phase I pilot study established the demonstration program's feasibility and indicated a significant increase in puberty-related knowledge, i.e., students significantly improved their knowledge and awareness of puberty issues after using the program, (t32=-5.55, p<.0001 ), suggesting that the program effectively changed at least one important dimension related to BDIA. Proposed Commercial Applications: With about 90 percent of children and adolescents using computers today and over 80 percent using computers at school, computer technology represents the next generation for public health prevention initiatives. This program is intended to be offered in schools, but can be readily used in other settings (e.g., primary care offices, youth centers, or at home). If such a program demonstrated effectiveness in reducing risk behaviors over traditional education approaches, school administrators and health educators would likely view it as a desirable, cost effective way to offer BDIA education and prevention to young adolescents.