Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science


Food Science and Human Nutrition

First Advisor

Lorraine Lanningham-Foster


BACKGROUND: Overweight and obese children and adolescents are at greater risk for being overweight or obese as adults as well as developing one or more chronic diseases. Approximately one third (31.8%) of children in the Unites States are either overweight or obese (16.9% being obese). The causes of obesity are complex and multifactorial, an interaction between biological, psychological, and environmental factors. Physical activity and dietary habits are two major contributing modifiable factors in determining one's health and weight status. Interventions are needed to help curb the obesity epidemic by working toward improving the health status of children and adolescents.

METHODS: The Immersion in Wellness program was conducted during summer 2012 at the Iowa 4H Center in Madrid, Iowa. The goal of this program was to fully immerse campers in a five-day wellness program to help foster sustainable, healthy lifestyle changes that youth campers could take home with them. The entire efforts of this project were directed towards childhood obesity prevention through fun and interactive lessons. Intervention campers received nutrition, physical activity, gardening, and culinary education during their five-day immersion experience. Control campers participated in the traditional camp schedule and did not receive any of the educational lessons.

RESULTS: Results indicated that campers were more likely to choose and report positive feedback on more recognizable menu alterations (main entrée and vegetable items). Campers were also choosing items of direct exposure (main entrée and vegetable items offered at their table) rather than indirect exposure (fruit offered on the salad bar). Campers with increased self-efficacy were significantly more physically active (total time, P<0.000 and METs, P<0.000). The level of physical activity self-efficacy in intervention campers increased from baseline to 6-months post (P<0.05), and there was not a change in self-efficacy in control campers. Self-efficacy (P<0.000), pooled efficacy (P<0.000), and activity options (P< 0.01) had a greater influence on physical activity than both parental proxy (P<0.05) and home environment (NS).

CONCLUSION: Overall, direct exposure was a key aspect of campers' food choices and preferences. Also if offered an item, children were likely to try it and typically liked it as well. Participation in the Immersion in Wellness program was associated with improved physical activity self-efficacy. Childhood obesity prevention programs that directly expose children to a variety of food choices and also support activity, by providing a variety of physical activity options and focus on increasing self-efficacy, may positively influence child health.


Copyright Owner

Hannah Ostrander



File Format


File Size

109 pages