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The University of Southampton

Behaviour change for health

Behaviour change in school children: LifeLab Southampton - engaging teenagers in improving their health behaviours.

Led by: Professor Keith Godfrey, Dr Marcus Grace, Dr Janice Griffiths, Professor Mark Hanson & Professor Hazel Inskip


To assess whether LifeLab improves teenagers’ diets, lifestyles and awareness of the implications of health behaviours on future health and that of their children.
Our approach is to inspire teenagers with the science behind NBRC lifecourse research. LifeLab has been established as an outreach project at the heart of the Southampton NBRC.


Secondary school students visit LifeLab for hands-on activities (e.g. ultrasound of their own arteries, analysis of their DNA, epigenetic biomarkers, nutrient transfer from a mother to her fetus, body composition assessment) to learn how maternal and childhood nutrition influences health, understand the impact of their lifestyle on future health, and experience modern science to inspire them with the excitement of research and future career possibilities. The visit follows preparatory work in their school, supplemented by later learning activities.

We are now conducting a formal assessment of the change in attitudes to health behaviours, lifestyle and interest in health and science, from before to after the LifeLab experience, by conducting a cluster randomised trial in 4,000 students aged 12-13 years from 24 year groups in 18 Southampton and Hampshire schools, comparing children who do and do not attend LifeLab. We will derive prudent diet scores to measure conformation to healthy eating recommendations. With an estimated between-school variance of 0.035, an average of 170 students per year group, 11 year groups in each arm gives 80% power to detect a difference of 0.25SDs in the prudent diet score.

Impact to date

Pilot work with children from a range of schools suggests LifeLab has profound and lasting effects on their attitudes. Now evaluation of a scaled-up intervention is underway.
The outcome measures are change in a) health related behaviours (measures of prudent diet score and other aspects of lifestyle), b) attitudes (self-efficacy), c) motivation and subject choice to pursue careers in science, d) understanding of long-term influences on health. Longer-term this project may inform future preconceptional interventions.

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