Media Release: World-first eHealth program to address adolescent lifestyle risk behaviours

A world-first eHealth program targeting the ‘big six’ lifestyle risk behaviours in young people that can lead to chronic disease later in life is to be trialled in Western Australia (WA).

Researchers from the National Drug Research Institute (NDRI) at Curtin University in Perth will recruit Western Australian secondary school students to test the Health4Life initiative, which includes an online school-based program and smartphone apps.

NDRI’s Dr Nyanda McBride and Professor Steve Allsop will lead the WA arm of the national study, which is being launched today at UNSW Sydney. The program is supported by the Paul Ramsay Foundation and led by Professor Maree Teesson from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC), UNSW Sydney.

“School based prevention programs aimed at young people’s health do exist, but Health4Life is the first eHealth intervention to target six key lifestyle risk factors simultaneously, namely risky alcohol use, smoking, poor diet, physical inactivity, poor sleep and recreational screen time,” Dr Nyanda McBride said.

“The health burden from chronic disease, including cancer, diabetes and heart disease, can be reduced through addressing these lifestyle risk behaviours, which commonly emerge in adolescence.

“If we can educate our young people and get them into good health habits early, we can reduce the risk of chronic disease in the long term, as well as address issues associated with mental health and alcohol and other drug use in the short term.”

Media contact:

Dr Nyanda McBride, National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University
Phone: (08) 9266 1605   Mobile: 0429 936 793  Email:

Professor Steve Allsop, National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University
Phone: (08) 9266 1606   Mobile: 0407 967 964  Email:

Vic Rechichi, Media Relations, National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University
Phone: (08) 9266 3858   Mobile: 0414 682 055  Email:

Background information:

The national launch media release is available on NDARC's website.

Australian children experience risk factors for poor health at alarmingly high rates:

  • 95% do not eat recommended serves of fruit and vegetables
  • 74% have used alcohol
  • 23% have used tobacco
  • 85% do not meet guidelines for physical activity
  • 86% do not adhere to guidelines for recreational screen time
  • 25% get insufficient sleep

Many of these risk factors are entrenched by age 18 and the international evidence tells us these behaviours cluster together and are associated with high risk of chronic disease and mental health problems. As the debate in Australia has started to shift towards raising and educating the whole child rather than focusing on assessable tests this is an opportune time to show international leadership in helping prevent future chronic disease and mental health problems to  set young Australians on a path to maximising their potential.

Launching on 25 May 2018, Health4Life is a new eHealth initiative to empower Australian adolescents to improve their physical and mental health and reduce chronic disease risk. Chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, cancers and mental disorders, are the leading cause of death and disability in Australia. Poor diet, smoking, risky alcohol use, physical inactivity, recreational screen time and poor sleep are the “Big 6” risk factors associated with chronic disease.  Not only can these health behaviours lead to chronic disease and mortality in the long-term, in the short-term they are associated with increased risk of obesity, mental health problems and alcohol related harms.

The Big 6 typically begin to emerge and develop over adolescence and importantly, co-occur as “risk clusters” as people engage in multiple risk behaviours concurrently. Once the Big 6 are established they are more likely to persist, than reduce, over the life course. For example, a study published this month in Frontiers in Public Health found that more than three quarters of a sample of 853 18 year olds had insufficient intake of vegetables (80%) and more than half reported binge drinking at least monthly (52%). More than 40% showed inadequate consumption of fruit (42%), approximately one third reported sitting for longer than recommended periods (33%), and approximately one quarter reported smoking (29%) or failing to meet physical activity guidelines (23%). Early and effective prevention are therefore critical, and using technology for the good in this space is one of the most powerful tools we may have.

Posted on: 25 May 2018

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