Master's Project Title:

Weight, Wellness, and Work: Assessment of Nutrition and Physical Activity in Young Adults Attending a Job Training Program

MCH Student:

Nicole Chaisson, MD

Date of Defense:

May 29, 2012


Objective: A wellness needs assessment was conducted for the Hubert H. Humphrey Job Corps Center to evaluate prevalence of and factors associated with obesity on campus.

Background: Job Corps is the largest national academic and vocational training program for at-risk youth. Obesity has been associated with difficulty attaining and maintaining employment, the program’s main goal.

Methods : A brief questionnaire of currently enrolled students assessed: food and drink intake, activity level, demographics, body satisfaction, substance use, and mood. Analysis included descriptive statistics with frequency distributions. Simple relationships were explored with Chi-square tests to assess diet and activity behaviors across BMI subcategories. Stepwise regression explored the effect of diet, activity, demographics and mood on BMI.

Results : Mean BMI was 27.4 kg/m 2 ; however, 22.9% of students surveyed were overweight (BMI=26-30) and 34.3% were obese (BMI >30). There was less of a difference in healthy eating patterns across BMI subcategories than in physical activity and sedentary behavior. Stepwise regression indicated lower BMI was associated with foreign birth, eating breakfast, and participation in strenuous exercise. Higher BMI was associated with increased TV watching.

Conclusion: Obesity rates in this low income, ethnically diverse adolescent population are higher than comparative state and national data. Physical activity correlated more with BMI than dietary intake. Job Corps is an ideal program for promoting healthy lifestyles to at-risk youth committed to improving their education and employ-ability. Many employers promote employee wellness programs to reduce health care costs and absenteeism; Job Corps could model a similar program during job training to integrate employ-ability and well-being.