USIU has a total population of 1,300 graduate students as at July 2018 in the various schools who all have access to the campus health centre and sports grounds. The health center is situated on the East Wing of the Freida Brown Student Centre and was established in 2016 comprising a fully-fledged gym that is open and free of charge to all USIU students who are in session. Employees of USIU can use the gym but are charged a minimal fee which goes into the maintenance of the facilities.
Services offered in the gym are martial arts, strength training, cardio work-outs, aerobics, weight-lifting and table tennis. Special workout sessions are also offered such as Zumba, step and dance aerobics amongst others complete with both male and female showers and changing rooms. The gym operates Monday to Friday from 0700hrs – 2000hrs and there are four fully employed instructors to assist with gym activities. In addition, there is a newly built swimming pool open for use by students upon presenting their student ID cards, a hockey pit, basketball pitch and jogging grounds around the campus.
Other sports done at USIU complete with teams include cricket, hockey, soccer and basketball. The teams comprise of largely undergraduates who represent the university in many tournaments and competition with other university teams.
Physical activity is defined as any body movement produced by muscles and that results in the release of energy (). According to the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHH) , physical activity is any body movement that works your muscles and requires more energy than resting. Walking, running, dancing, swimming, yoga, and gardening are a few examples of physical activity. DHH opines that physical activity generally refers to movement that enhances health and helps build and maintain strong muscles, bones, and joints. It thus reduces the risk for heart disease, some cancers, diabetes, and helps prevent unwanted weight gain.
DHH provides guidelines for using physical activity to reduce stress and anxiety which in turn increases a sense of well-being and improves our quality of life. The organization contends that:
• Some physical activity is better than none. Inactive adults should gradually increase their level of activity. People gain health benefits from as little as 60 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week.
• For major health benefits, one should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity each week. Another option is to do a combination of both. A general rule is that 2 minutes of moderate-intensity activity counts the same as 1 minute of vigorous-intensity activity.
When students begin college/university, they have more autonomy over their dietary choices, e.g. food purchasing and preparation but rarely do they consider the risk of developing chronic diseases when making food choices (Kattelmann et al, 2015) . The authors contend that factors such as cost, skipping meals, inadequate variety of foods, snacking and frequent consumption of fast foods may increase students’ risk of poor health.
Regular physical activity is associated with enhanced health and reduced risk of all-cause mortality (Kahn et al, 2010) . According to the authors, they opine that informational approaches are designed to increase physical activity by providing information necessary to motivate and enable people to change their behavior, as well as to maintain that change over time and propose primarily educational approaches to present both general health information about disease prevention and risk reduction as well as specific information about physical activity and exercise.
The authors also propose that interventions to increase physical activity should adopt behavioral and social approaches and that they can only be effective if the social environment is structured to provide support for people trying to initiate or maintain behavior change. Therefore, interventions should involve the target individuals or group behavioral counseling and typically include the friends or family members that constitute an individual’s social environment.
According to the World Health Organization, lifestyle diseases can be greatly reduced through regular aerobic exercise and physical activity and state that recreation activities such as running, brisk walking and swimming are excellent for elevating the heart rate and lowering the incidence of heart disease, obesity and diabetes, if done regularly and that modest and physical activity changes the size and density of cholesterol-carrying proteins thereby causing less damage to the cardiovascular system (Associated Press, 2002). Therefore, people of all ages can improve their health by being moderately active on most days of the week. Examples of moderate activity include brisk walking, gardening, and yard work sufficient to increase the heart rate.
Through casual observation, it was noted that there are many activities students can take part in, at USIU however, the uptake is mainly perceived as done by undergraduate students. To ascertain whether this was the case, two methods of study were administered among USIU students – using questionnaires and face-to-face interviews to check uptake of the said facilities.
Questionnaires targeting graduate students, who are presently in session, were distributed to assess their current use of the university gym and sporting grounds/facilities. To establish who uses the recreation facilities, the questionnaires were distributed amongst the students and responses were received from a sample size of 119 students in June 2018. The findings indicate that majority of graduate students do not use these facilities as 82% (98) reported they had never used the gym or sporting grounds while 18% (21) had used the said facilities. A total of 97% (115) of the sample size were graduate students out of which 59% (70) had been at USIU for 2-3 years and another 26% (31) have been in session for 1-2years. Sixty-eight respondents were female and 51 male while their ages were between 21 – 50 years while the majority were in the 31 – 40years age bracket.
Other general observations indicated that even though some graduate students do not use the facilities at USIU, about 10 reported that they use other gyms outside of school. Those who provided comments stated that if more information on terms and benefits of using the facilities was made available, they could consider use while still in session.
Therefore, there is need to come up with a strategy to try and influence change in sedentary behavior amongst graduate students at USIU.
Behavior Change Communication Strategy
1. Stakeholder Engagement
This strategy sort to engage USIU students, faculty and employees to influence adoption of physical activities as part of their day to day routine when they are on campus. Since communication will be targeted to all of them in the long run, it was important to invite their opinions and views on how the implementation of proposed activities will work best.
Upon consultation with the primary target audience through face to face interviews, the students recommended that the operating hours in the evenings be extended to 2200 or 2300hrs so that the evening students can use the facility in the evenings or that USIU management considers operating the gym over the weekends when they have more free time.
Faculty and employees consulted are willing to take up use of the sporting facilities as long as management segregates the exercise rooms so that they do not have to mix with the students they teach. There are four gym rooms and request that one is set aside for them.
2. Summary of Analyses
i. Nature and extent of the problem – use of university gym and sporting facilities used mainly by trifling number of undergraduate students. A small population of the graduate and post-graduate school, including faculty and campus staff do not use the facilities citing the following reasons among others:-
? Little or no information on general terms and conditions for use of the same.
? Inability to use the facilities due to time constraints and operating hours.
? Use of other facilities outside of USIU.
? Lack of information on eligibility to join or use the facilities from management, including services offered and benefits.
? Low hygiene standards witnessed in the use of gym equipment
? Lack of a trainer in the swimming pool and hockey pitches.
ii. Potential audiences – Students, Faculty and staff of USIU.
iii. Available resources – Soccer and hockey pitch, basketball pitch, swimming pool and recreation centre. Currently with four qualified gym instructors but a professional swimming coach is required for the pool facility. Other sports coaches required for the various sports who will guide the students in desired activities.
iv. Communication environment – Information to be channeled through campus emails that targeted audience have, campus noticeboards, distribution of flyers and class WhatsApp groups. Management to also consider use of black board for periodic notices on sports updates.
3. Theory to Use
To help improve uptake of use of the sporting facilities at USIU, the strategy proposes to use the Transtheoretical Model of behavioral change. This theory describes individuals’ motivation and readiness to change a behavior. The theory will help identify the stages students are in as they progress through lifestyle modifications. It will also guide the strategy in understanding how the students are feeling about adopting positive lifestyle changes and therefore help them progress through each stage to make the proposed behavior change more effective. The stages in this theory include:-
i. Precontemplation – In this stage, the students are not considering adopting a physical activity program and they are largely sedentary and perhaps do not see or understand the value of physical activities in their daily routines. Messaging will therefore be more focused on encouraging the said students to start thinking about change and the resultant benefits. Messaging will focus on educating students about the health risks of inactivity and the value of being physically active while considering there will be some who are not ready to make changes just yet and require further encouragement and information on benefits of physical activities while still in school.
ii. Contemplation – This is the stage where students will begin to consider the idea of adopting a physical activity program and starts to think about how the sedentary lifestyle is negatively affecting his or her health. While they may not be quite ready to make changes but thinking about it, messaging will be to encourage them to weigh the pros and cons of physical activities so that they can better understand the benefits of adopting a physical-activity program and making other positive lifestyle changes.
iii. Preparation – In this stage, the students are mentally and physically preparing themselves to adopt a physical activity program. They are no longer considered sedentary and they have begun to engage in some of physical activity (e.g. walking and an occasional visit to the gym) but without consistency or commitment to continue doing so. Messaging will therefore focus on encouraging the students to adopt healthy lifestyle changes and overcome the challenges keeping them away from the gym. Working with the available gym instructors, the messages should include information on how to create a plan to fit physical activity into the students’ busy work schedules, especially for evening students as well as making healthy food choices when eating out and identifying or creating a social support system.
iv. Action – This is the period between 0-6 months where the students will have been engaging in regular physical activities. They are outliving the plan created at the preparation stage and therefore messaging will focus on offering continuous support and encouragement. Messages should contain information on long-term advantages of using the sporting facilities and importance of setting individual goals so that the drive does not wear off. Other messaging will include information on anticipating and overcoming obstacles that might deter their motivation to go to the gym.
v. Maintenance –This is the period six months and above where students will have adopted a physical activity program and are maintaining new healthy behaviors. Messages will therefore focus on continued encouragement to the students and identifying those that cause relapses and ways to deal with the said triggers. While appreciating the students may oscillate back and forth in the different stages, it is also important to craft messages that will address the trigger factors so that messaging to address these are well articulated.
While conducting the formative assessment, the selected sample was largely graduate students and therefore this strategy uses them as the primary audience. The secondary audience would be post-graduate students and under-graduates who are not specifically using the sporting facilities. Other secondary audiences would be the faculty and other staff who access the campus frequently. While recognizing the audiences are different, segmentation of the audience will be done as follows:-
Socio-demographic Behavioral Psychographic
Occupation Current behavior
Stage of change/readiness to adopt physical activities
Frequency of physical activity
Consistency of physical activity
Duration of physical activities
Preferences of exercise time
5. Communication Objectives
The overall goals of this behavior change strategy are:
Goal: Creating awareness on activities that students can take part in while on campus
Objective: To circulate information to 30% of USIU graduate students of the sporting facilities available for their use by December 2018
Goal: Shaping attitudes of adopting exercise in the target audience daily routines
Objective: To influence 1000 students to join the USIU gym or take up daily physical fitness at home for the very first time by June 2019.
Goal: Stimulating a desire to change sedentary lifestyles and adopt physical activities to improve on health
Objective: To influence 1000 students to shun junk food and eat healthy foods by June 2019.
6. Strategic Approaches
This program will accomplish its communication objectives by considering the appropriateness of communication channels selected for use and other effective approaches to reach a large proportion of the audiences effectively and efficiently. This strategy proposes the following:-
a. Use of social networks – identifying key class group administrators who will help disseminate information to classmates in their social networks. This is in an effort to reach out to groups that may provide a social environment to attract members in groups.
b. Use of USIU Blackboard elearning platform – this will ensure a wide reach of information going out to all students and faculty.
c. Use of posters and flyers to be put up in all the school’s notice boards and distributed in various classrooms in the evenings.
d. Creating awareness at USIU student-driven events such as the annual USIU Cultural Week. A tent can be set up whereby healthy foods are showcased; there could also be a tutorial or live demonstration on how to prepare them. Officials from the gym could also use this chance to encourage students to use the USIU gym for their fitness needs. A professional nutritionist could also be on hand to help students create a healthy meal plan, considering their food preferences, budgets and hectic lifestyles.
e. Creating awareness at faculty-driven events such as the occasional public lectures in the auditorium, the keynote speaker being a famous person or gifted orator. Officials from the gym as well as a professional nutritionist could be given a few minutes before the keynote speech to present their case. A table full of brochures and fliers can also be set up outside the hall so that participants can pass by and ask all the questions they may have.
f. Celebrity endorsement-some famous celebrities can be approached to be the poster guy/girl for the healthy lifestyle campaign. The celebrity chosen should be one who is followed massively by the youth on social media, thus their level of influence would be greater. These celebrities should also be setting a good example by eating healthy and keeping fit, plus documenting their regimen on social media. Perfect examples of Kenyan celebrities who would be great brand ambassadors are Anerlisa Muigai (CEO and Founder of Nero Company Ltd, producer of Executive Still Water) and Big Ted (State House PR Head). They have both suffered from obesity in the past but managed to adopt healthy lifestyle and lose a lot of weight as a result.