The VIA - OAR (Overweight and At Risk) study was designed as an extension of VIA-OWL, a previous study focused on the overweight epidemic. As in the OWL study, OAR allows adolescents to create videos about their everyday lives, focusing particularly on how they balance nutrition and exercise. Because overweight is so stigmatizing, parents and young people are sometimes unable to report accurately what goes on at home in terms of diet, activity, and related behaviors. In VIA-OAR, VIA hopes to empower young people ages 12-20 to show and explain the choices and challenges they experience so that clinicians are better able to address the realities of their patients’ lives when considering issues surrounding health, diet, and exercise. VIA-OAR is the first VIA protocol to include a comparison cohort. This will allow the study to examine how young people deal with eating healthily and exercising across multiple age groups, racial/ethnic backgrounds, and baseline weights. Each participant tapes for two to three weeks, during which they are asked to produce 20 hours of video.

Over the two weeks, participants show their everyday lives including activities such as school, sports and dance practices, music lessons, and relaxing with friends and family. Participants often film family meals and conduct interviews with their family and friends about their eating and exercise habits. Preliminary findings indicate that adolescents’ conceptions of weight and overweight can be far more positive than those of their clinicians. For example, one young woman stated that her size showed that she had “a lot of love”. Participants also revealed considerable media use, watching television, chatting on the computer, and playing videogames for hours. Participants and their families exhibited a range of knowledge about healthy food choices, and had differing access to those foods. In some cases, participants showed or described conflict between themselves and their parents about food preferences or eating habits. Family influence on weight perceptions by the participant has been notable as well.

VIA-OAR has received support from the Charles H. Hood Foundation.

Note: This study is still in progress. As of winter 2007/2008, data collection is underway, under the supervision of Field Coordinator Julie Polvinen and Research Assistant Laura Veit. Analysis has recently begun with the help of the Summer 2007 Intern Team under the direction of Analysis Coordinator Jen Patashnick. So far, more than twenty participants have created visual narratives for this study. We look forward to reaching our goal of 42 participants.

Center on Media and Child HealthPrivacy Policy & Terms of UseChildren's Hospital Boston