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Strengthen the Evidence for Maternal and Child Health Programs

New: MCHbest strategies database for sample ESMs

Evidence Tools
MCHbest. NPM 8: Physical Activity

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Strategy. Social Network/Peer Influence in School

Approach. Use in-person or technology-based social influence student groups (e.g., peer mentoring, peer leadership) to encourage and increase physical activity in or out-of-school.

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Overview. Research indicates that using social influence groups through in-person or technology interaction can increase the physical activity in children and adolescents during in or out-of-school time. The intervention may include class competitions to increase participation and may involve family members to support the out of school time physical activit. 1, 2

Evidence. Emerging. Initial research showed positive results for social network or peer influence groups in person or through technology. Further research is needed to identify critical components and confirm effects. This strategy has been tested more than once and results trend positive overall. Access the peer-reviewed evidence through the MCH Digital Library. (Read more about understanding evidence ratings).

Target Audience. Schools: children and adolescents.

Outcome. Increase in overall physical activity in children and adolescents. For detailed outcomes related to each study supporting this strategy, click on the peer-reviewed evidence link above and read the “Intervention Results” for each study.

Examples from the Field. Access descriptions of ESMs that use this strategy directly or intervention components that aligns with this strategy. You can use these ESMs to see how other Title V agencies are addressing the NPM.

Sample ESMs. Using the approach “Use in-person or technology-based social influence student groups (e.g., peer mentoring, peer leadership) to encourage and increase physical activity in or out-of-school,” here are sample ESMs you can use to model for your own measures using the Results-Based Accountability framework (for suggestions on how to develop programs to support this strategy, see The Role of Title V in Adapting Strategies):

Quadrant 1:
Measuring Quantity of Effort
("What/how much did we do?")

  • Number of schools using a social network or peer influence phone app to increase physical activity.
  • Number of classrooms participating in social network competition to increase physical activity.

Quadrant 2:
Measuring Quality of Effort
("How well did we do it?")

  • Percent of schools who implement a social network or peer influence group to increase physical activity
  • Percent of children participating in social network classroom completion to increase physical activity.

Quadrant 3:
Measuring Quantity of Effect
("Is anyone better off?")

  • Number of schools reporting satisfaction and continuation of the use of a social network/peer influence phone app to increase student physical activity.
  • Number of children who report an increase in their physical activity levels while participating in a social network classroom competition.

Quadrant 4:
Measuring Quality of Effect
("How are they better off?")

  • Percent of schools reporting an increase in physical activity after using a social network or peer influence phone app.
  • Percent of students who report an increase in their physical activity levels while participating in a social network classroom competition.

Note. ESMs become stronger as they move from measuring quantity to measuring quality (moving from Quadrants 1 and 3, respectively, to Quadrants 2 and 4) and from measuring effort to measuring effect (moving from Quadrants 1 and 2, respectively, to Quadrants 3 and 4).

Learn More. Read how to create stronger ESMs and how to measure ESM impact more meaningfully through Results-Based Accountability.


References:

1 Harrington DM, Davies MJ, Bodicoat DH, Charles JM, Chudasama YV, Gorely T, Khunti K, Plekhanova T, Rowlands AV, Sherar LB, Tudor Edwards R, Yates T, Edwardson CL. Effectiveness of the 'Girls Active' school-based physical activity programme: A cluster randomised controlled trial. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. 2018 Apr 25;15(1):40

2 Van Woundenberg TJ, Bevelander KE, Burk WJ, Smit CR, Buijs L, Buijzen M. A randomized controlled trial testing a social network intervention to promote physical activity among adolescents. BMC Public Health. 2018;18(1), 542.

This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under grant number U02MC31613, MCH Advanced Education Policy, $3.5 M. This information or content and conclusions are those of the author and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.