While adults are routinely screened for risk factors that indicate the development of heart disease and diabetes, teens are screened for these risk factors only if they exhibit physical symptoms.
However, when teens are screened for these conditions and educated about them using electronic messages, their risk factors are reduced, according to results from the Screening Teens Early With Identification and Intervention program (also known as the STEWii study).
The results were published in the November 2015 issue of the Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.
The article, titled “Effectiveness of early identification and electronic interventions for teens with risk factors for the development of heart disease and diabetes,” highlighted a two-year study which evaluated teenagers for risk factors that lead to the development of heart disease and diabetes. The study also investigated the effectiveness of a two-part, recurring electronic lifestyle education program in reducing these risk factors.
In February 2014, 170 teens recruited from two Winchester, Virginia-area high schools were screened for physical risk factors such as elevated blood pressure and heart rate, elevated body mass index, and gum inflammation. In concert with Sunrise Medical Laboratory, investigators also screened students for fasting blood glucose and hemoglobin A1C levels, blood lipids, thyroid-stimulating hormone, high sensitivity-C reactive proteins and vitamin D levels.
Following this baseline data collection, students and their parents were given a detailed report of their results, which included recommendations based on the data collected and analyzed.
“Throughout the study, participants had access to an interactive STEWii website, which housed information about the risk factors and provided practical lifestyle recommendations designed to reduce risk,” said Shenandoah University Professor of Nursing Pamela Webber, Ph.D., APRN, BC, FNP, who served as lead investigator for the study. “In addition, students received similar information twice a week by simultaneous email, voicemail and electronic messaging.”
Data collection was repeated after 12 weeks, and upon analysis, the study discovered one or more serum and/or physical risk factors in the majority of students, with low vitamin D and elevated body mass index (BMI) being the most common. Correlations existed between elevated BMI and elevated diastolic blood pressure, low vitamin D, and low high-density lipoprotein. All but one risk factor (BMI) improved at 12 weeks.
“Healthy lifestyle interventions can reduce selected risk factors for chronic diseases and teens appear to be a receptive audience if the right approach and technology is used,” notes the study. “Mobile devices were the communication method of choice for these teens. Elevated BMI levels confirm the national trend toward obesity in this population and present a risk factor that is proving difficult to influence.”
Rounding out the research team were: University of New England College of Pharmacy assistant Dean for Assessment and Accreditation and Clinical Associate Professor Wallace Marsh, Ph.D.; Shenandoah University Associate Professor of Nursing Lorena Jung, Ph.D., RN; Shenandoah University Eleanor Wade Custer School of Nursing Blackboard Specialist Mary Gardiner, B.S.N., RN; Jasmine James, M.S.N., APRN, BC, FNP, of Opal Medical Group (Hagerstown, Maryland); and Pam McMullan, M.S.N., APRN, BC, FNP, of Parkway Neuroscience and Spine Institute, LLC (Clear Spring, Maryland).