The influence of a school social network intervention on adolescent health behaviors: an agent-based and gender-specific model

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Before Public Health. 4 Apr 2022;10:861743. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2022.861743. eCollection 2022.


INTRODUCTION: Adolescence is a crucial stage for the development of health behaviors, which is associated with health in adulthood. School closures caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic have put adolescents at increased risk of obesity due to a lack of physical activity. Although social media interventions are an effective approach to promoting health-related behaviors, current practices overlook gender differences in adolescent behavioral patterns and emotional preferences. The purpose of this study was to examine the effectiveness of gender-context-embedded centrality-based methods in a social network intervention to improve adolescent health behavior.

METHODS: We developed an agent-based model (ABM) that supports the small-world characteristics of adolescent social networks. Data relating to the health of middle school students (not = 234, 48% girls) were collected in November 2018, 2019 and 2020 in Tianjin, China. We simulated several network-based interventions with different criteria for influential agents (i.e. betweenness centrality, proximity centrality, eigenvector centrality and PageRank) and a random condition . The rules for generating peer influence and accelerating behavior change were based on the theory of the diffusion of innovations, with gender specifications.

RESULTS: After the school closures, there was a significant increase in the prevalence of overweight and obesity among adolescents, with a greater increase in girls than in boys (+8.85% versus +1 .65%, p p p population level (6.37% per tick, p p p

CONCLUSIONS: We found evidence of gender differences in the negative impact of COVID-19-related school closures and the potential for centrality-based social network interventions to affect adolescent health behavior. Therefore, we emphasize the importance of gender-specific targeting strategies to further promote health-related school programs in the post-pandemic era.

PMID:35444977 | PMC: PMC9013940 | DOI:10.3389/fpubh.2022.861743

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