School scheme brings good boost for girls
A new study has shown for the first time that a gender-specific education program can bring measurable improvements to students’ self-esteem.
Monash University researchers have reported on a trial to demonstrate that a group-based intervention improves protective health factors among girls at risk of developing negative mental, physical, and social health outcomes.
They evaluated an intervention known as ‘Girls on the Go!’ (GoG); a ten week program designed to improve self-esteem, body image and confidence.
Delivered by health professionals outside the school environment from a community health venue to preadolescent and adolescent girls, the GoG program uses an empowerment model that involves interactive and experiential learning approaches.
The GoG intervention was provided to schools in the culturally diverse City of Greater Dandenong, an area of high social disadvantage.
In small group sessions, health professionals motivated and supported GoG participants to change their attitudes and behaviours, and embrace change for better health outcomes.
“This is the first large trial of a gender-specific community-based program that has shown to effectively increase self-esteem,” said researcher Professor Helen Truby.
“GoG is a novel intervention targeting girls with a range of issues with eating such as overweight or underweight and in both primary and secondary schools.
“We tested the effectiveness of the GoG program on the outcomes of self-esteem, impairment induced by eating disorders, body satisfaction, self-efficacy, and dieting behaviours,” said co-author Professor Terence Haines, Director, Allied Health Research Unit at Monash Health and Monash University.
“Over the ten week period, interactive activities and discussions took place around goal setting, body image, self-esteem, personal safety and assertiveness, health eating and healthy minds, involvement in physical activities that are fun, trust, confidence, and making community connections,” said Laura Tirlea from Monash Health.
“Our findings are important, particularly given our study sample included a high proportion of girls from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and was set in a community with lower socioeconomic status.”
“These groups can be difficult to recruit into research programs and are often underrepresented in research of this nature.
“Previous meta-analyses have found that similar health promotion interventions have had only a small, short-term effect whereas the gains in GoG participants were retained after six months and up to nine months of follow up.”
Significantly, this evaluation provides an evidence base for the effectiveness of the GoG program at a time when preventive approaches are timely and desperately needed.
“Focussing on self-esteem as a general protective factor is a safe approach and leads to overall health and well-being in at-risk preadolescent and adolescent girls,” Ms Tirlea said.